A plan to repower NRG Dunkirk's coal-fired plant with natural gas is still a possibility.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Energy Highway Task Force has issued its "Blueprint" for New York's power future and the Dunkirk proposal has made the initial cut.
The Blueprint was created after the Energy Task Force reviewed 130 responses provided by 85 entities to its Request for Information (RFI) issued in April. In-vestor-owned utilities, private developers and inves-tors responded. Also added to the consideration for the Task Force were public comments submitted on the RFI responses along with available reports and analyses.
State Assemblyman An-drew Goodell told the OB-SERVER a key to the NRG Dunkirk proposal was its willingness to switch to natural gas as many Assembly members were openly hostile to coal burning plants
"When NRG made the announcement they were going with gas, it's a game changer," he explained. "The report that was issued (Monday) strongly supported efforts to repower the coal plants with natural gas. They specifically mentioned NRG, just a short paragraph, stating that it is a product that is ready to go forward with the repowering. ... The environmental advantages are there and they need to do the economic analysis to make sure it's feasible."
Goodell said the project is a winner from the governor's perspective, given there would be a dramatic drop in emissions even though NRG Dunkirk has installed state-of-the-art environmental controls. Goodell added that natural gas prices are projected to be lower than coal for some time.
"A plant like this that produces high quality, and it's a very high-efficiency low-cost plant, strengthens all of western New York and that's important," he continued. "It's politically correct to support alternative power when it's solar and this report acknowledges that wind and solar will never be competitive with natural gas, but because it's so politically correct it's a priority for the state. So they're talking about state and federal subsidies for alternative power.
"Here's the thing that's so important about NRG. You can't increase wind power and solar power unless you have a responsive base plant that can back it and the new plant that's being proposed here in Dunkirk, call it a quick-start plant, it goes from no production to full output in 10 minutes."
Goodell also cited two items in the report that may be key to the NRG Dunkirk proposal.
He said it had strong recommendations to improve the transmission infrastructure, which would enable the upstate plants to meet downstate demand. This should improve the market for the NRG Dunkirk plant. In addition, it shows strong support for repowering initiatives to improve the environment, reduce emissions and cut costs.
Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce knows it will cost taxpayers if the plant should close. He said he hadn't read the entire report, which runs some 110 pages, but what he did see was encouraging.
"This isn't by any means a full endorsement of the project but it is encouraging to see," he stated. "At the very least it would alleviate the concerns about a further reduction in the PILOT payment if they were to mothball the plant. So at the very least we're excited to know our payments would stay on schedule while this construction is going on."
Dolce said the city desperately needs an economic push.
"A $700 million construction project would no doubt bring the people that would support our local business community in many ways, shapes and forms. We're quite excited about that potential," he continued. "This by no means is set in stone. This isn't the highway commission coming out and saying look, this is going to happen. We continue to ask the public to sign the online petition or search out hard copies of the petition.
"We need the public to stay involved, stay active, sign the petition and again, just see this thing through. We're expecting the decision in November on whether or not the project will be approved."
Dolce said the city has placed the PowerUPWNY petitions in the clerk's and treasurer's office for people to sign and show their support.
The energy plan is looked at to add some 3,200 megawatts of additional electric generation and transmission capacity, along with clean power generation, through private investments totaling some $5.7 billion.
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