The Business Council of Westchester and the Westchester Business Alliance held an energy forum Friday at the Rye Town Hilton to showcase the results of their energy assessment study for the county, which was released later that same day. The report, prepared by Howard Axelrod of Energy Strategies, Inc., determined that the premature closing of the Indian Point nuclear power facility in Buchanan, could result in what the Business Council called “devastating impacts on area economy and environment.”
In a presentation highlighting the study’s findings, Axelrod outlined the current electricity needs of Westchester and its reliance on kilowatt hours produced at Indian Point.
Axelrod explained that licenses for the facility’s two operating units would expire in 2013 and 2015, and although Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) procedure would allow the facility to remain open beyond the expiration dates, he used a 2016 facility closure date as a baseline for his energy needs calculations. “There is no energy back up plan in place if the facility is closed,” he said.
At the top of the closure impact list Axelrod placed an electric rate increase of 6.3 percent or more, “with consumers paying more than $374 million per year in added electric bills.” Axelrod also claimed that by 2020, the probability of electric outages would increase by 280 percent and that carbon emissions from any other fossil fuel source replacing the nuclear fuel would result in carbon emissions equivalent to adding 1 million more vehicles to Westchester roads.
The study further noted that “as a result of higher electric rates and the closure of Indian Point, Westchester County would lose more than 3,300 jobs, many of them high paying jobs, representing over $200 million per year in lost wages. Westchester would also lose $75 million per year in property taxes and revenue sharing with the state. Contributions to local charitable organizations would decline by $2 million annually, and overall, the downstate regional economy would be drained by some $11.5 billion (inflation adjusted).”
Turning his attention to alternative renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, Axelrod said it would take 8,000 to 10,000 wind mills to replace one nuclear unit. In lower New York State that option is not viable, he said.
A panel of energy experts accompanied Axelrod at the podium. Ivan Kimball, Vice President of Energy Management, Con Edison; Jerry Kremer, Chairman of New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA); Patrick Moore, Chair and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. and co-founder of Greenpeace; and Elizabeth Silleck, Regional Coordinator for the Energy $mart Communities Program, an outreach project of NYSERDA, all seemed to basically agree with Axelrod’s findings.
One of the most outspoken speakers on the panel, Patrick Moore, referring to his past history as co-founder of Greenpeace said: “We have misplaced nuclear energy into the same place as nuclear weapons. Nuclear energy is safe and reliable. Much safer when compared to fossil fuels.”
Moore further emphasized that hydro-electric power in New York State was viable and renewable. “Nuclear power is sustainable, but it cannot be boosted to provide peaking power, you need gas back-up for that,” he said. “It makes sense to convert from coal power to gas power, but from nuclear to gas makes no sense and to think wind and solar power are viable is just irrational.”
The nuclear power units at Indian Point are coming up to 40 years of operation. NRC licenses are for 20 years. Moore indicated that newer nuclear plant technology was far superior, but these units could last for a total of about 60 years.
Business owners in the audience using local power agreed they could not handle exaggerated electricity increases. A group of alternative energy technology providers, however, were stunned that no mention was made about taking industry off the power grid or using back-up generators. A number of small companies represented work together to provide a network of energy sharing that decentralizes power usage.
John Douthit, business development manager for Arista Power, a supplier of solar and wind energy systems to small and large electricity users told The White Plains Examiner the way of the future is to decentralize not to centralize. “More companies are finding it cheaper to go off the power grid totally or to use wind and solar as backup to the grid.”
Alexandre Baldassano, director of GP Renewables and Trading, agreed with Douthit. “It makes no sense to assume that alternative renewable energy sources are going to be gathered together in large areas. The whole point is that they are more flexible and more local,” Douthit explained.
“An Assessment of Energy Needs in Westchester County” can be viewed at the Business Council of Westchester’s website at westchesterny.org.