With the Indian Point nuclear plant slated to retire in just a few years, New York will soon lose a significant source of carbon-free energy. Can we find a way to replace
the plant’s energy supply and stay on
track to meet the state’s renewable energy target? Energy efficiency offers an answer.

Last month, Governor Andrew
Cuomo announced that New York State had reached a deal with Entergy, operator
of the Indian Point nuclear plant, to retire the plant’s reactors by 2021.  Located less than 25
miles north of New York City, Indian Point supplies 2,000 megawatts, or roughly
one-quarter, of the electricity used by New York City and neighboring
Westchester County.  While many are
celebrating the plant’s closure as a win for public safety, an
important question remains – how will we make up the lost electric generating
capacity?

New York’s Clean Energy Standard – an
ambitious goal to meet 50% of the state’s electricity demand from renewable resources
by the year 2030 – offers a glimpse of the path forward. To meet the
Standard’s rapidly approaching deadline, the state is ramping up development of upstate
and offshore wind
, and is planning to import additional wind and hydropower from Quebec.  These
projects are promising, but will require the construction of expensive new
energy infrastructure, and will likely take years to complete.  And while
smaller-scale solar installations have been booming in recent years, solar power still
only makes up about 1% of New York’s energy mix.  When Indian Point’s carbon-free nuclear power goes offline in 2021, will there be enough clean
energy to pick up the slack?

According to a study released yesterday
by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Riverkeeper, and Synergy Energy
Economics, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ The report’s energy and economic
modeling finds that Indian Point’s generating capacity can be completely replaced, by pairing renewables with a vital but often overlooked energy resource – energy efficiency.

At
just one-third the cost of developing new electricity generation resources, energy efficiency
is the most cost-effective energy resource available today, according to research
by ACEEE
. By scaling up energy efficiency initiatives across New York, we can shave peak demand and narrow the gap that will be
left by Indian Point’s closure, making it more feasible for renewables to meet the remaining demand.

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Image credit: ACEEE

Energy efficiency is also an essential tool in our fight against climate change. With buildings contributing more than 70% of all carbon emissions in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made improving the energy efficiency of buildings a cornerstone of the City’s commitment to reduce its carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

Simply put, energy efficiency works. Driving energy efficiency improvements is not only a critical component of the City and State’s climate action plans, but will significantly reduce the load on our grid, while creating local jobs, and improving both affordability and asset value. We need to double down on our efforts to
nurture a vibrant market for energy efficiency, and create more programs like
the New York City
Retrofit Accelerator
, (for which BE-Ex is the education and information hub)
to remove obstacles and barriers and help scale this incredibly potent
solution.

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