NYISO Warns of Power Capacity Gap When Ginna, FitzPatrick Nuclear Plants Are Closed

Closure of Exelon’s 614-MW R.E. Ginna and Entergy’s 882-MW James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plants will leave New York with a statewide power deficiency starting in 2019, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) has concluded.

A generator deactivation assessment issued on February 11 that is focused on reliability impacts stemming from the deactivation of the FitzPatrick plant shows that more that 2.6 GW of capacity are slated to be closed in New York between January 2016 and July 2017.

That total includes several coal-fired units, including at Dunkirk and Huntley, as well as gas turbines at Astoria and Ravenswood. It also includes the Ginna reactor, even though Exelon hasn’t formally announced it will shutter the plant in Ontario, N.Y. That plant currently has a reliability support services agreement with Rochester Gas and Electric that will allow it to operate through March 2017.

Entergy announced in November 2015 that it would permanently close its FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego County on the southeast shore of Lake Ontario sometime between the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, due to the facility’s “continued deteriorating economics.” Entergy, which permanently shuttered its Vermont Yankee power plant in December 2014, also wants to shutter its Pilgrim plant in Plymouth, Mass., owing to poor market conditions.

Meanwhile, its Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan, N.Y. has been beset by radioactive water leaks and fierce opposition, including from New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The state, however, has tried to block Entergy from shutting down its FitzPatrick plant, pledging to pursue “every legal and regulatory avenue.” Despite Cuomo’s proposed Clean Energy Standard—which calls for New York utilities to supply 15.7% of forecasted load power from upstate nuclear plants—and a proposal by Exelon to provide fuel to Entergy “at cost,” Entergy says there is no doubt that the reactor will shut down by early 2017.

But if the reactor shuts down, according to grid operator NYISO, that will leave a critical generation gap. “The resource deficiency equates to approximately 325 MW statewide, but would likely require more than 325 MW of new or retained capacity resources to resolve, depending on forced outage rates and the location of the resources,” it said in its February 11 reliability analysis.

One issue is that the state faces transmission system limitations between its zones. “Capacity added in Zone A is not as effective as capacity added in other locations, unless that capacity also improves the transfer limitations,” it said.

Warning that “a statewide resource deficiency in year 2019 cannot be timely addressed within the biennial reliability planning process,” NYISO said it would begin a “gap solution” process to address reliability.

Asked if the permanent closure of the controversial Indian Point reactors would further exacerbate the gap, NYISO spokesperson David C. Flanagan replied that the grid entity had not considered the issue.

“The NYISO performs bulk electric system reliability impact analyses after receiving an official retirement notice for any bulk electric system generation asset and does not speculate on the future status of particular generation units, such as Indian Point, that have not provided notice of their intent to retire or mothball their facilities,” Flanagan told POWER on February 12.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)