Some hope for NRG

The process to determine the fate of the NRG Energy Dunkirk coal-fired power plant has taken another step with a state agency leading the way.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) instituted a proceeding Thursday to examine repowering alternatives to utility power plant reinforcements and directed National Grid to work with NRG to evaluate repowering of the plant. The PSC also directed the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation to work with AES to evaluate repowering of its Cayuga generating station.

“Evaluating repowering is consistent with the New York Energy Highway Task Force Blueprint which cited the potential benefits of repowering and recommends that electric utilities be required to analyze repowering as an alternative to transmission system upgrades when a facility needed for reliability proposes to retire,” said PSC Chairman Garry Brown.

According to its release, the PSC directed the evaluations of repowering as an alternative outcome as the closing of the power plants could cause reliability concerns. The companies will examine the relative costs and benefits of repowering the plants at their existing sites compared to alternative transmission upgrades over the long term. The benefits to be evaluated include the reliability, environmental and customer impacts associated with the repowering and transmission solutions.

“We’re pleased to see the PSC directive and we believe that the Dunkirk repowering project offers a host of benefits to New York – in-state jobs, stability for the power grid, affordable electricity for ratepayers, and economic benefits that power plants like NRG’s Dunkirk station provide both locally and statewide,” said David Gaier, spokesman for NRG’s East Region. “The PSC’s directive also makes a lot of sense because it’s important to evaluate New York’s electricity infrastructure, to make sure that there’s a proper balance of generation and transmission.”

The coal-fired Dunkirk generating station consists of four units with combined nameplate rating of over 635 megawatts (MW). Units 1 and 2 are each rated at 100 MW and Units 3 and 4 are each rated 217.6 MW. The Cayuga facility located in Lansing, consists of two coal-fired units with a combined capacity of over 312 MW. Unit 1 has a net capacity rating of 154 MW and Unit 2 of 158.7 MW.

Steve Brady, National Grid’s Media Relations Manager, was asked about the PSC action.

“We have no specific comment on today’s PSC action, other than we will certainly follow through. They want to see a cost/benefit comparison of re-powering versus other solutions (transmission),” Brady said. “At this point we have no particular preference, but given the current circumstances it would be imprudent to not beginning planning for a Dunkirk shut-down. If it turns out that re-powering is a better option, so be it, but transmission planning and construction is typically a long process so it only makes sense for us to be doing that now.”

As part of this evaluation, the companies will file with Department of Public Service staff projected costs of the transmission alternatives that they propose to evaluate, solicit bids from the current owners of the Dunkirk and Cayuga plants for the level of support required to finance repowering of their respective facilities and file reports analyzing repowering alternatives in terms of reliability and other impacts and make recommendations to the PSC.

Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce was hopeful the announcement would translate into good news for the city and area.

“I didn’t get anything else on that but what I did hear keeps me optimistic,” he said.

The PSC’s decision may be obtained by going to the Commission Documents section of its website at www.dps.ny.gov and entering Case Number 12-E-0577 in the input box labeled Search for Case/Matter Number. Commission orders may also be obtained from the Public Service Commission’s Files Office, 14th floor, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223 (518-474-2500).

Send comments on this story to gsnyder@observertoday.com