Gov. Cuomo just struck a deal to shutter the nuclear reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center by 2021. Cuomo has been agitating to close the plant for years. But his win is a loss for New Yorkers who need reliable and affordable electricity. The shutdown also contradicts Cuomo’s push to cut the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions.
Other than that, it’s a great deal.
Let’s start with reliability. The two reactors at Indian Point, which are owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation, provide about 25 percent of the electricity needed by New York City. Assuming this really means one Indian Point reactor will close in 2020, and the other in 2021, how will the city replace the 2,083 megawatts of always-on generation it gets from Indian Point?
If Cuomo continues pushing his anti-nuclear, all-renewable attempt at an extreme makeover of New York’s electric grid, the friction with rural communities will only grow.
Entergy and the governor’s office haven’t said, beyond vague mentions of more wind energy and maybe some Canadian hydropower.
But the New York Independent System Operator — the independent nonprofit that manages the state’s sprawling electric grid — understands the value of the state’s nuclear plants. Last July, in comments to the Public Service Commission on Cuomo’s decree that the state must get 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, the NYISO said flatly that “Retaining all existing nuclear generators is critical to the State’s carbon emission reduction requirements as well as maintaining electric system reliability.”
It also said that meeting the governor’s renewable goal will require the state to triple its onshore wind capacity. By closing Indian Point, the state will have to rely even more on the unreliability of the wind.
But rural communities in upstate and western New York are already objecting to the encroachment of Big Wind. A 200-megawatt project called Lighthouse Wind is being opposed by two towns, Yates and Somerset, as well as three counties: Erie, Orleans and Niagara. The battle over Lighthouse Wind is a harbinger of future land-use controversies.
If Cuomo continues pushing his anti-nuclear, all-renewable attempt at an extreme makeover of New York’s electric grid, the friction with rural communities will only grow. Indeed, according to the NYISO, to meet the governor’s demands the state will have to add the equivalent of 17 projects the size of Lighthouse Wind.
Put wind turbines offshore? Sure. But you can’t have wind and eat your calamari, too.
Developing New York’s offshore wind resources will require erecting dozens of giant wind turbines right in the middle of some of the best squid and scallop fisheries on the Eastern Seaboard. Last month, a coalition of fishermen and fishmongers filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to stop the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from auctioning several offshore tracts for wind-energy development. The suit claims the project will have “both great and actual harm” to the fisheries. The sale happened anyway.
Closing Indian Point will cost New York consumers, who are already paying some of America’s highest electricity rates. In 2012, energy economist Jonathan Lesser wrote a report for the Manhattan Institute estimating that a premature closing of Indian Point will likely mean a $100-per-year increase in the average residential ratepayer’s bill.
A typical small business might see an increase of $1,000. Electricity bills at the Metropolitan Transit Authority will likely increase by $1 million to $2 million per year, an increase which would, of course, have to be paid for by riders and taxpayers.
Cuomo has repeatedly declared his intent to make New York a leader on combating climate change. But by shuttering Indian Point, Cuomo is ignoring nuclear’s essential role in cutting carbon-dioxide emissions. Indeed, the likely result will be more natural gas-fired generation, and higher emissions.
That’s exactly what happened in California after officials in that state negotiated the premature shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2013. An analysis by Lucas Davis, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Energy Institute, found that California’s carbon-dioxide emissions rose by 9 million tons in the first year after San Onofre closed.
The effects are clear. Closing Indian Point will be bad for consumers and the environment. Cuomo and Entergy should reverse course immediately.
This piece originally appeared at the New York Post
Photo: Getty Images / Spencer Platt