New York's Energy Shortage = More Green Jobs

Thu, 2011-07-07 18:48

New York City's Mayor Bloomberg announced today that he is opposed to closing the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant for 4-5 years. Indian Point is a very old nuclear power plant that sits just 35 miles from New York City on an active earthquake fault line. If there were a nuclear accident it would be nearly impossible to evacuate the surrounding population. Given the risks that this nuclear power plant represents to the surrounding population, New York's governor Andrew Cuomo is hell bent on closing the plant when its license expires in two years.

So why is New York's mayor against closing the plant that soon? First, there is not enough power generation without the plant to keep the lights on in New York City. That is a big deal that would crush the local economy if New York City could not guarantee electricity and if rolling blackouts started happening, especially on hot summer afternoons. Second, the air in the New York area is already filled with smog. Closing Indian Point would probably mean more coal and other traditional power plants which would worsen the air pollution. Third, the city has made large commitments to combat carbon emissions which would be impossible if coal fired power plants replaced Indian Points zero emissions nuclear.

So what is New York to do? To me it is obvious. The region should heavily invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy with supporting smart grid improvements to ensure that power can be moved around the region. A 10 year plan should also be created to ensure that 100% of Indian Point's electricity is replaced by renewable energy sources. This would create tens of thousands of green jobs such as energy auditors, insulators, solar installers, wind installers, turbine manufacturers, the list goes on!

Is it possible? That is a tricky question. Many people in the electric industry would say "No! We need nuclear, we need coal and we need natural gas.” Each of those power sources is heavily subsidized and just to replace the nuclear plant with carbon emission sources is likely to raise rates by 10-15%. Plus the government will have to provide billions of dollars in development guarantees for the new electricity plants. Well, why not start not with a crash investment in energy retrofits, wind turbines and solar panels. Yes, it will cost billions but once the renewable energy sources are in place there is no radiation risk (from nuclear), smog pollution (from coal) and water pollution (from natural gas fracking).