NEW YORK, N.Y. – The downstate area could see rolling black outs if Indian Point is closed and not replaced with another energy infrastructure, according to testimony heard Thursday by New York State Assembly members.
“There is a lot of uncertainly and conflicting information regarding the future of the Indian Point,” said Assembly member Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster), chair of the State Assembly's Committee on Energy. “New York's energy future cannot be premised on alarmist approaches, muddled with misinformation. The purpose of this hearing is to gather real evidence and ensure there are plans in place to address the electricity needs of New Yorkers if the nuclear plant is shut down.”
Assembly members Cahill and James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) held hearings on Indian Point Thursday morning with the New York Independent System Operators. NYISO is a non-profit company that monitors New York's electrical grid.
NYISO's testimony did not rule out the possibility of replacing the power from Indian Point, saying if Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recently proposed “energy superhighway” were to come into existence the additional transmission capacity could theoretically replace power from the plant.
“Statewide, New York has more than an adequate level of generation capacity," said Rick Gonzales, NYISO's chief operating officer. "However, the capability of the existing electric transmission system is not sufficient to allow upstate supply to fully meet demand in the Southeast portion of the State.”
Indian Point produces about 30 percent of the electricity consumed by New York City, about 2,000 megawatts, and 11.7 percent of energy produced in New York State. Gonzales said statewide, New York generates plenty of power, but bottlenecks in the downstate region reduce transmission capacity from northern and western generators.
Gonzales said replacement options would need to be in place by the summer of 2016 to avoid reliability issues should Indian Point shutdown. Gonzales testified that additional generation projects and transmission capacity could bring 5,000 megawatts of electricity to the downstate area by 2016, but it's unclear if and when these projects would be built.
Gonzales, as well as Con Edison, testified that shutting down Indian Point Power Plants could increase the cost of electricity. Con Edison testified that it would increase residential New York City bills by between 5 and 10 percent. Gonzales said it's currently impossible to determine if, and by how much, electricity bills would increase because replacement options have not yet been chosen.
“There’s an incredible economic opportunity, as well the environmental benefits, of transitioning to a green energy economy, which relies on renewable energy," said Manna Joe Greene, environmental director for Clearwater, one of several advocacy organizations at the hearing. "And all those technologies are readily available. It’s just a matter of putting those infrastructures in place.”
Greene said Indian Point does not necessarily need to be replaced with carbon burning energy sources, such as additional natural gas or coal burning plants, which would degrade air quality in the region.
“Their justification is we would switch from nuclear to fossil fuels, so there would be more coal burned, there would be more natural gas ‘peaker’ plants turned on, rather than acknowledging that it is time to transition to a green energy economy. And that is the fallacy,” she said.
Jerry Kremer, chair of New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (NY AREA), argued that not only are the plants necessary, but New Yorkers will be more reliant on Indian Points two reactors in the future.
“Due to such factors as growing future demand, the rise in the use of electric cars, the retirement of many aging fossil fuel facilities and the challenges faced by downstate New York to improve its air quality, Indian Point will be more crucial to the region’s economy in five years than it is today,” he said.
Entergy was one of N.Y. AREA’s founding members in 2003 and supplied funding to the organization, according to Entergy representative Jerry Nappi.