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Environment

New York Nuclear Closure Could Increase Gas Use, But Likely Not In New England

The last of Indian Point Nuclear Plant's reactors in New York shut down Friday.
The last of Indian Point Nuclear Plant's reactors in New York shut down Friday.
The last of Indian Point Nuclear Plant's reactors in New York shut down Friday.
Credit Entergy / Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The last of Indian Point Nuclear Plant's reactors in New York shut down Friday.

Natural gas use is expected to increase in New York after the closure Friday of the state's largest nuclear plant. But it probably won’t trickle out to New England, according to a regional industry leader.

New York and New England's power grids can share electricity with each other, depending on supply and demand.

They use a similar fuel mix, with very little coal and oil and an increasing amount of wind and other renewables; New York is especially dependent on hydropower.

But both regions run largely on gas and nuclear power, meaning that when a nuclear plant closes, it's usually backfilled with gas.

That happened in New England after the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant retired in 2014, and climate activists expect the same in New York with the Indian Point nuclear plant now offline.

That mix is likely to change again in the coming years as New York works to bring huge amounts of offshore wind power online.  

But in the short term, it’s unlikely to affect the power that gets exported northward, according to Dan Dolan, the head of the New England Power Generators’ Association. He says gas already tends to supply the relatively small amount of power New England gets from New York every day.

Got a question about the renewable energy transition in New England? Email NHPR's By Degrees project at climate@nhpr.org.

New England states, including New Hampshire, are hoping to see their own boom in offshore wind power within the decade – potentially decreasing gas dependence further.

The region has two remaining nuclear plants: Seabrook in New Hampshire and Millstone in Connecticut. Millstone’s two reactors are licensed to run through 2035 and 2045, and Seabrook’s license was recently extended through 2050.

In the next nine years, President Joe Biden aims to permit enough offshore wind energy in the U.S. to equal the capacity of 25 new Seabrook reactors.

Copyright 2021 New Hampshire Public Radio