October 15, 2020 Read More →

NYPA, environmental justice groups to consider clean options for replacing New York City gas peakers

Greentech Media:

Utilities operating fossil-fueled power plants, and the low-income and disadvantaged communities that face the brunt of their pollution, may have a new model for resolving their differences.

On Tuesday, the New York Power Authority signed a landmark agreement with the Peak Coalition, a group of five environmental justice and clean energy groups, to study ways to replace or reduce emissions from NYPA’s six gas-fired peaker plant sites in New York City and Long Island.

Tuesday’s memorandum of understanding doesn’t set a hard deadline for closing the plants, which provide about 470 megawatts of capacity to meet downstate New York’s peak-constrained grid needs. But it does offer communities at most risk from their emissions an ongoing role in working with the state’s public power utility to find cost-effective ways to reduce the impact, NYPA CEO Gil Quiniones said in a Wednesday interview.

NYPA’s peaker fleet, installed in the early 2000s, doesn’t face the need to close by 2025 under state air-quality regulations, as do older, more polluting peaker plants in downstate New York. But they’ve been the target of legal challenges from groups representing low-income communities at most risk of harm from their emissions. At the same time, New York City faces a shortage of transmission capacity to meet its peak grid demands, and NYPA’s units may become more valuable for meeting those needs as older plants face retirement, Quiniones said. They’re also important for local grid reliability, and several are needed for “black-start” capability to reenergize the grid after power outages, “so we have to be careful” about how to replace them, he said.

This is a common problem facing utilities in states such as New York that are pushing to decarbonize their electricity generation fleets, and it doesn’t have an easy answer. California regulators have allowed utilities to replace capacity from the closed San Onofre nuclear power plant with new gas-fired peaker plants, though they also required Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to seek out batteries, energy efficiency and demand response to meet part of the shortfall.

NYPA’s agreement with the Peak Coalition calls for a study of alternatives that can both ensure reliability and reduce the amount of emissions its peaker plants emit during the roughly 10 percent of the year they’re called into service, Quiniones said. Beyond NYPA’s in-house experts, “we’ll hire consultants and hire a sub-consultant to advise the environmental justice groups, so they know it’s not biased, that it’s fact-based,” he said. “The first thing we’ll consider seriously is installing existing storage technology on a hybrid basis,” using batteries to augment power plant capacity, Quiniones said.

[Jeff St. John]

More: NYPA, environmental justice groups to work together on peaker plant replacements

Comments are closed.