Cuomo says Indian Point generation can be replaced with minimal pain

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Jan. 9 that the roughly 2,000 MW generated by the Entergy (NYSE:ETR) Indian Point nuclear complex can be replaced with minimal impact on electric consumers in the region.

Cuomo and Entergy executives confirmed Jan. 9 that the company and the State of New York have reached a legal settlement for Indian Point Units 2 and 3 in Westchester County will each cease operation by mid-2021.

The agreement does include a provision that could allow the units to run about four years longer should New York need the electric generation in the event some sort of disaster or terror attack.

The New York Independent System Operator (NY ISO) would make that determination on whether the Indian Point generation would be necessary, according to Entergy officials.

Unit 1 reactor was permanently shut down in October 1974.

Cuomo also said in a statement that replacement power will be added that adds “no carbon emissions” and have negligible impact on ratepayers.

“That remains to be seen,” Entergy Wholesale Commodities President Bill Mohl said in a news conference later in the day.

Currently, transmission upgrades and efficiency measures totaling over 700 MW are already in-service. Several generation resources are also fully permitted and readily available to come online by 2021, after the plant’s closure, including clean, renewable hydropower able to replace up to 1,000 MW of power. Together, these sources will be able to generate more than enough electrical power to replace Indian Point’s capacity by 2021.

The New York Public Service Commission’s Indian Point Contingency Plan and other planning efforts have ensured that more than adequate power resources are able to come online by 2021 to ensure reliability of the power grid. Given these planning efforts and likely replacement resources, the plant’s closure in 2021 will have little to no effect on New Yorkers’ electricity bills, Cuomo said.

The New York PSC has been exploring ways to mitigate the possible Indian Point shutdown since the fall of 2012, including potential natural gas and renewable energy generation, as well as transmission improvements.

The state and various other parties contesting the current 20-year license extension will drop their opposition in exchange for, among other things, Entergy agreement to a far shorter extension.

The pressurized water reactors (PWRs) would close as early as April 2020 for Unit 2 and Unit 3 in April 2021. That’s 13 and 14 years earlier than required under the anticipated federal re-licensing terms, respectively.

In the event of an emergency situation such as a terrorist attack affecting electricity generation, the State may agree to allow Indian Point to continue operating in 2-year increments but no later than April 2024 and April 2025 for Units 2 and 3 respectively, according to the governor’s office.

The state will continue to closely monitor Entergy to ensure public safety and mitigate safety risks associated with the plant, including for storage of spent nuclear fuel.

“This administration has been aggressively pursuing and incentivizing the development of clean, reliable energy, and the state is fully prepared to replace the power generated by the plant at a negligible cost​ to ratepayers,” Cuomo said in announcing the closure agreement.

Several renewable projects are already in the New York regulatory pipeline.

Through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the state will continue to drive reductions in greenhouse gases across the power sector. Further, the state’s Clean Energy Standard to get 50% of New York’s electricity from renewables by 2030.

That state standard includes controversial “zero emission credits” that will actually benefit existing nuclear plants in Upstate New York, including the FitzPatrick plant that Entergy has sold to Exelon (NYSE:EXC).

The state of New York has also expressed concern with various unplanned outages, and operational problems that have occurred at the nuclear units in recent years.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.