Anyone who’s ever viewed the magnificent New York City skyline at night — glittering, vibrant, and reaching ever higher by the year — has seen the proof of how reliable power sources are to our economy and our quality of life in this state.
For over 50 years, we’ve had a ready supply of 2,000 megawatts of electricity — carbon-free, regardless of sun or weather, every day and around the clock right here in New York — thanks to the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The operator reached an agreement with the state a year ago to close Indian Point by 2021.
The question now is how the state will replace this critical resource. The answer is far from clear.
According to the state and environmental activists, our future will rely primarily on renewable energy, particularly wind and solar. However, according to the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) — which manages the state’s power grid — our future will depend on natural gas, the fossil fuel that emits the least carbon and has become readily available and relatively inexpensive in most other parts of the country.
A recent NYISO study says we’ll have adequate replacement power for Indian Point if no fewer than three natural gas plants go on line by 2021: the Bayonne Energy Center, transmitting from New Jersey; the CVP Valley Energy Center, under construction in Orange County; and the Cricket Valley Energy Center, under construction in Dutchess County.
As of now, neither Valley Energy Center nor Cricket Valley has received all the permits needed to become operational; the state has mysteriously blocked these approvals, as well as the approvals for the pipelines needed to supply them with natural gas. The Millennium, Constitution, and Pilgrim pipelines have all repeatedly failed to receive water-quality certifications, as has the Valley Lateral spur to Valley Energy Center.
Given the state’s opposition to permitting the natural-gas infrastructure needed for new natural gas power plants, it’s difficult to envision how the NY-ISO’s projection will be realized within three short years.
According to the environmental lobby, the alternative to natural gas will be wind and solar power, but the scale of such projects is daunting. According to the Manhattan Institute, New York would have to install 6.8 gigawatts of wind power, equal to 34 times the size of the Lighthouse Wind project, to replace Indian Point. This very ambitious goal runs directly afoul of the equally passionate NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) contingent, who are leading the charge in upstate communities to prohibit wind installations. Meanwhile, the state’s plan for placing turbines offshore is about to be challenged by the fishing industry.
Even if the NIMBYs suddenly came around, wind and solar remain an inconsistent source of power at best, pending the development of appropriate battery technology. They’re simply not going to reach the level of base load power generation needed by 2021.
As things stand now, all of us who need our homes, communities, schools, businesses, and hospitals powered with electricity whenever and wherever we need it, as we’ve been accustomed to for decades, face the loss of Indian Point without a plan for its replacement: renewables won’t be ready, yet natural gas won’t be available. Importing power from out of state, will leave us vulnerable to outages and price spikes, and effectively exports jobs out of our state.
It’s time, now, for our government to give up its campaign against natural gas infrastructure. Without this fuel, we’ll be quite literally at the mercy of the elements, stripped of the power that once enabled us to lead the nation in clean energy production. Such an ignominious fate the Empire State should never accept.
By Arthur “Jerry” Kremer