New analysis on retirement of Indian Point nuclear plant finds NY reliability not in jeopardy

Source: Synapse Energy Economics

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and environmental group Riverkeeper have commissioned a report from consulting firm Synapse Energy Economics on the viability of energy alternatives to the 2,040 megawatt Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, New York. 
Entergy's Indian Point Energy Center in Westchester County, New York

Executive Summary for Indian Point Energy Center Nuclear Plant Retirement Analysis:

The report provides an assessment of the alternative energy resources that are available to replace Indian Point Energy Center Units 2 and 3 (Indian Point) if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not relicense these facilities when their current licenses expire.

The two units at Indian Point, located in Buchanan, New York in Westchester County, each have the capacity to generate approximately 1,020 MW of electricity, or 2,040 MW combined. Our analysis is based upon existing literature regarding electricity resource development in New York, particularly the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) Gold Book, which contains forecasts of peak demand as well as a comprehensive queue of electricity resources that are currently being proposed by developers. We also review a recent report from Charles River Associates for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (CRA Study) that addresses many of the same issues in this report.

We note at the outset that this report provides an overall assessment of the potential opportunities and costs associated with replacing Indian Point’s energy and capacity, based upon readily available current data. The actual impacts of retiring Indian Point will depend upon a variety of factors in the New York electricity market that are very difficult to forecast with precision at this time. Nonetheless, our analysis provides useful information illustrating some likely impacts.

Key findings of the report include:

• Con Edison, serving New York City, currently relies on only a small portion of Indian Point to meet its reliability requirement. The other two distribution companies in the regions near Indian Point (Long Island Power Authority and Central Hudson Gas & Electric) do not currently rely upon any Indian Point capacity to meet their reliability needs.

•Energy efficiency resources, beyond those currently planned for, could provide as much as 1,570 MW of capacity savings in the Indian Point region, and additional savings are available in the rest of the state. 

• Renewable resources could also play a role in replacing Indian Point capacity, with roughly 1,154 MW of capacity available for reliability purposes already in the NYISO interconnection queue. To provide a conservative estimate of the amount of this renewable capacity that might likely be built and actually be available, we assume that only 50% of these projects are completed.

•In addition to the renewable resources currently in the NYISO interconnection queue, there is a large potential for rooftop solar and off-shore wind resources, most of which would be located within the regions near Indian Point and close to the high energy load centers. 

• There is substantial potential for existing, older natural gas plants in New York City to be repowered or replaced with new efficient combined cycle power plants on the same site. If necessary, new, efficient natural gas combined cycle facilities could also play a role in replacing Indian Point capacity, and would be particularly helpful in providing dispatchable generation and voltage support in the Indian Point region.

•New transmission lines, several of which are already in progress, can play a role in replacing Indian Point capacity, particularly transmission facilities that can eliminate the congestion between the Indian Point region and the rest of New York State. 

• The costs of replacing Indian Point energy and capacity will depend upon the choice of replacement resources. Energy efficiency will help significantly reduce replacement power costs by reducing the wholesale prices of energy and capacity, and reducing customer bills. New renewable resources will help lower the cost of replacement power, to the extent that they are required anyway to comply with the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

•The CRA study overstates the likely costs of replacing power from Indian Point, by presenting a limited set of replacement options, especially a limited amount of energy efficiency opportunities. 

• The percentage increase in electricity customers’ bills from replacing Indian Point will be roughly half of the percentage increase in wholesale electricity prices, because wholesale energy represents roughly half of electricity customers’ total bills. 

• The impact on customers’ electricity bills is likely to be on the order of one to three percent under the scenarios discussed in this report. For those customers who participate in energy efficiency programs, this increase in electricity bills would be more than offset by reductions in bills due to energy efficiency savings.

We find that there are likely to be ample existing and new resources available to replace Indian Point if it were to retire; and that neither New York City’s nor New York State’s electricity reliability would be jeopardized. A replacement scenario focusing on cost-effective demand-side resources, local renewable resources, repowering of existing older inefficient power plants and new efficient generation as necessary would maintain reliability at a low cost to electricity customers.

Access the full report here:
Indian Point Energy Center Nuclear Plant Retirement Analysis: Replacement Options, Reliability Issues and Economic Effects

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