The two utilities providing electricity to New York City and Westchester County have been ordered by the State Public Service Commission to plan for a future without electricity from the Indian Point nuclear power plants.
In the first concrete action taken by a state agency to move towards a non-nuclear energy future in the lower Hudson River Valley, the PSC ordered Consolidated Edison and the New York Power Authority “to develop and file a contingency plan to address the needs that would arise in the event the Indian Point units shut down.”
The order from the state’s regulatory body is a major step towards implementing a series of recommendations generated by state agencies under direction of Gov. Cuomo, who is seeking to close those nuclear plants, as well as assessments from independent agencies about the feasibility of closing the plants.
With this order, the PSC is following through on recommendations in the Governor’s New York Energy Highway Blueprint to push for development of upgrades in transmission capabilities to add 1,000 megawatts of electricity to the NYC/Westchester County portion of the state’s electric grid. That would more than cover any possible shortfalls in electricity needed in the region by providing access to large amounts of electricity generated in the northern and western portions of the state.
The Blueprint recommends the Department of Public Service “invite developers and transmission owners to file notices of intent to construct projects that would increase the capacity for transfer of electric power between upstate and Central New York and the lower Hudson Valley and New York City, thus relieving existing bottlenecks.”
In a statement following the PSC action, Commission Chairman Garry Brown said “a growing, vibrant economy requires an energy production and delivery system that provides a stable foundation companies need to invest in their facilities and workforce, to expand operations and hire new workers.
“In addition to strengthening the economy, the Energy Highway will enhance New York State’s investment in clean energy production.”
A byproduct of improving the state’s electricity transmission network is that it would encourage development of wind farms in the rural Great Lakes region at the state’s western edge, with the power being sold to the thirsty, New York City region in the southeastern tip of the state.
In addition, closing Indian Point would end the damage to the Hudson River caused by using billions of gallons of river water daily to cool its equipment – a process which kills billions of fish annually and violates the Clean Water Act.
ConEd transmits all the electricity used in the NYC/Westchester County service area of the state’s electric grid. The company has some 3.1 million residential customers and 200,000 commercial and industrial customers of its own. Prior to the deregulation of the electricity market in 1999, ConEd owned Indian Point 2, which produces a maximum of 1026 megawatts and whose license expires September 28, 2013.
NYPA, a state agency which owns and operates several upstate hydro plants, owned Indian Point 3, which can generate a maximum of 1040 MW and whose license expires December 12, 2015. NYPA provides electricity – using its own power plants and electricity purchased under contract – to municipal customers. It is NYPA that is responsible for providing about 1,900 megawatts of electricity that keeps the MTA’s trains running, the street lights on, the schools and public housing lit, and LaGuardia and Westchester Airports operating. JFK Airport has its own power plant.
The plants were sold to Entergy in 2000. At that time, since deregulation was new and it was not known how effective the marketplace would be in ensuring a supply of affordable electricity, the sale required Entergy to sell the full output of the two nuclear plants to NYPA and ConEd for seven years. The ensuing contracts, however, reduced the role of Indian Point in powering the region since both utilities found cheaper electricity supplies elsewhere, and Entergy sought customers in an integrated grid stretching from Maine to Ohio.