“New York could do without the power generated by the Indian Point nuclear plant, but making up for the loss of all that cheap electricity would be much easier if state officials changed their energy-efficiency policies.
That is a conclusion of a report issued on Thursday by two environmental groups on the implications of the long-running campaign to shut down Indian Point. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last month that the two reactors at the plant in Buchanan, about 30 miles north of Manhattan, would cease operating by 2021.
Mr. Cuomo and environmental groups — including the two that issued the report, Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council — have railed against Indian Point for years, arguing that it posed a significant hazard in such a populous area. But supporters of the plant questioned how the state would replace the low-cost, carbon-free power produced there.
Indian Point’s two working reactors can produce about 16 million megawatt-hours of electricity per year, or about one-fourth of the amount consumed in New York City and Westchester County. A proposed transmission line could carry enough hydroelectric power to the city from Canada to make up for about half of Indian Point’s output. The rest of the shortfall would have to come from other sources — gas-fired plants, solar panels or windmills — or by reducing demand.
The report determined that the new sources would not be necessary if the state more aggressively pursued efficient use of electricity. It cited Massachusetts and Rhode Island as examples that New York’s regulators could follow to drive down consumption.
Those two states have been shaving about 3 percent off their electricity use annually by providing incentives for shifting to more efficient lighting, appliances and heating and cooling systems, according to the report, which was produced by Synapse Energy Economics in Cambridge, Mass. That is about three times the pace at which New York has been improving its efficiency.
“New York can do even more” in pressing for energy efficiency, said Paul Gallay, the president of Riverkeeper. By doing so, state officials could “eliminate any need whatsoever for nonrenewable energy to replace Indian Point.”
The report did not include an estimate of how the planned shutdown of Indian Point would affect the monthly bills of customers of Consolidated Edison or other utilities that serve the state. But it concluded that the wholesale cost of supplying electricity in the state would rise by 0.2 percent to 2.1 percent, depending on how the gap is closed.
“This independent analysis confirms that Indian Point’s power can be adequately replaced by resources that are already in service or permitted and more that will come online,” the New York State Department of Public Service said in a statement.
The department said the state was “aggressively prioritizing energy efficiency by investing more than half of the state’s $5.3 billion Clean Energy Fund on efficiency programs” and by requiring utilities to develop their own efficiency initiatives.
National Grid and other utilities serving New England “have gotten very creative” in finding ways to improve energy efficiency, said Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy in Washington. “There’s no single silver bullet, but lots of silver BBs that add up to this savings.”
Mr. Nadel said that, in 2015, the savings amounted to 2.9 percent of annual electricity sales in Rhode Island and 2.7 percent in Massachusetts, but just over 1 percent in New York. Rhode Island and Massachusetts tied Vermont at the top of the council’s scorecard for electricity program savings; New York was tied for 14th with Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon.
Mr. Nadel said he was confident that New York could triple the amount of efficiency it has wrung from the system if it emphasized some of these measures, rather than relying on sources of renewable energy. “It’s not as sexy, but energy efficiency is lower cost,” Mr. Nadel said.”
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