Schenectady, N.Y. – The 1,000-megawatt Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant could be shut down when its license expires in 2013 with no impact on either system reliability or the electricity needs of the New York City -Westchester County section of the state’s electric grid.
But the region could face an electricity shortage and a stress on system voltage if its nuclear twin, Indian Point 3, closes when its license expires at the end of 2015 and no replacement power is in place. However, projections are that the region’s shortfall would be 750 megawatts – three quarters of Indian Point’s production capacity – and these could be made up by a combination of new electricity generation, conservation measures, and new or improved transmission capabilities, according to both analyses.
These conclusions – that at least one of the two reactors is no longer necessary – were made in comprehensive, back to back analysis by the New York Independent System Operator, which regulates and runs the state’s power grid and released its 97-page, draft “Reliability Needs Assessment” (RNA) last week; and the New York State Energy Planning Board, which on Friday released its111-page final “Transmission and Distribution Systems Reliability Study and Report”. The two analyses differ only in terms of their respective views of electricity needs if IP3 shuts down on schedule Dec. 31, 2015.
The ISO, which has to deal with the systems as they exist, rather than what may develop, projects a worst case scenario with a shortfall in 2016 if the economy has picked up and electricity usage is growing rapidly.
“Reliability violations would occur in 2016 if the Indian Point Plant were to be retired at the latter of the two units’ current license expiration dates,” the ISO report predicts. “Under stress conditions, the voltage performance on the system without Indian Point would be degraded.”
That scenario would require Consolidated Edison, the transmission company, to make up the shortfall during peak periods with a combination of targeted blackouts, service reductions, or planned conservation measures. The region’s peak daily usage is between 9,000 and 13,000 megawatts, with higher summer demand driven by the use of air conditioners. Indian Point provides only 560 megawatts of the electricity transmitted in the area by ConEd, and sells the rest in a market stretching from Maine to Ohio. That is just 5 percent of the electricity used by area businesses, transit systems, and residents.
But the 2000 megawatts flowing from the plants form an important part of the carefully balanced electric grid. That is why the ISO requires some of that electricity must be replaced to ensure system stability in the NYC-WC sector.
The ISO projection continues that if electricity usage grows at the current, moderate pace, shortfalls would develop after 2018; and if the economy is sluggish problems will not occur until 2022. The ISO does not, however, state that that means IP3 must remain open and operating.
“Continued reliability of the bulk power system during the study period depends on a combination of additional resources provided by market-based solutions…” the ISO report states. “However, the solutions submitted to the NYISO for evaluation…does not have to be in the same amounts of compensatory megawatts of the locations reported in the Reliability Needs Assessment. There are various combinations of resources and transmission upgrades that could meet the needs identified in the RNA.”
The ISO is currently developing a more precise assessment of what combinations would be needed to replace the plants so the free market can step in.
“A new plan envisions the possibility that Indian Point will be taken off line,” said ISO spokesman Ken Klapp during a discussion at the agency’s control center in the Albany suburbs. “The market won’t respond to needs unless they are made aware of the needs in the future. Then we get the market and the political system involved.”
The NY State Energy Planning Board acknowledges the possible shortfall, but expresses confidence the private sector will step in to fill the gap, which it says stems from the retirement of more power plants since 2010 than the ISO had anticipated, pulling some 700 megawatts from the system.