Vermont Yankee closure likely to change New England fuel mix

Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant closure New England fuel mix EIA Energy Information Administration DOE Millstone nuclear Pilgrim Seabrook ISO-NE Canada New York New England Entergy NextEra Energy Dominion

Grid operators in New England are expected to use several options to replace the generation lost from the closure of the 604-MW Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Entergy (NYSE: ETR) shut down the nuclear plant on December 29, 2014, after 42 years of service. Vermont Yankee supplied 4 percent of New England’s total electric generation and more than 70 percent of generation in Vermont, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). One option is to operate existing plants in New England at higher rates. EIA said the four remaining nuclear units in the region—the dual-unit Millstone in Connecticut, Pilgrim in Massachusetts and Seabrook in New Hampshire, with a combined summer nameplate capacity of 4,026 MW—already operated at an average capacity factor of 90 percent in 2014, based on data through October. Any additional generation will likely have to come largely from natural gas-, coal- or petroleum-fired units due to renewable energy’s variable nature.

New England could also import more electricity from grids in Canada and New York, EIA said. The Independent System Operator of New England (ISO-NE) already imports several thousand megawatts of electricity each hour from these regions, which met 14 percent of New England’s demand in 2013. Other options include expanding transmission capacity or meeting demand through increased energy efficiency and demand response programs.

Entergy expects decommissioning to cost more than $1.2 billion and take decades to complete.

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