Canada believes it may have the answer to replacing some U.S. nuclear capacity with other forms of carbon-free energy.
When New York state and Massachusetts retire three nuclear reactors between 2019 and 2021, the two states will lose a combined 2.7 gigawatts of carbon-free power. Both states want to replace that capacity with other forms of clean energy, in line with their ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the share of renewables in their energy mix.
Some thousand miles north, Hydro-Quebec, owned by the Quebec government, is struggling with stagnate demand at home, and as it expands its hydropower generation capacity, the company seeks to sell power to New York and Massachusetts.
Hydro-Quebec faces strong competition from wind and solar proposals in the two U.S. states. In addition, hydropower is a reliable baseload option, but environmentalists say it is destructive to rivers and to river and nearby forest habitats.
The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., is planned to cease operations on May 31, 2019, while the two operating units at the Indian Point Energy Center will close in 2020-2021, with the decision driven by sustained low wholesale energy prices.
The closing of the three reactors would mean that NY and Massachusetts will lose a total of 2.7 gigawatts of carbon-free power.
This year, both NY state and Massachusetts issued requests for proposals for clean energy projects. Massachusetts seeks renewable energy generation and renewable energy credits (RECs) of 9,450,000 MWh annually and seeks proposals for long-term contracts of 15–20 years to provide the distribution companies with clean energy generation. The state has received more than 40 bids, including proposals from Hydro-Quebec-led developments. Hydro-Quebec says it is proposing six options —either 100-percent hydropower or a hydro-wind supply blend — offered over one of three proposed new transmission lines.
“Our hydropower can be the foundation to reduce the overall price of electricity for the people of Massachusetts and help the state integrate more renewable sources onto its grid,” Hydro-Quebec’s CEO Éric Martel said in the company release in July.
New York State—which targets 50 percent of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030—said last month that it had received more than 200 bids from large-scale, clean energy project developers in response to two requests for proposals. The requests are seeking to procure 2.5 million megawatt hours of electricity from renewable energy resources, and the state will announce winners next month.
Hydro-Quebec is bidding in this tender as well. It has submitted two proposals, one to optimize the existing infrastructure, and another to deliver 5.8 to 8.3 terawatthours (TWh) per year over a new or expanded interconnection into New York from Quebec.
In Massachusetts, Hydro-Quebec will have a lot of competition from wind projects.
“There’s a lot of wind proposed,” Robert Grace, president of the clean-energy consulting company Sustainable Energy Advantage, told Bloomberg.
Massachusetts could “meet the targets without relying heavily on hydro,” he noted.
Hydropower is not the top choice for New York, according to urban research and advocacy organization Regional Plan Association.
“We would ideally like to see wind and solar replace Indian Point,” Robert Freudenberg, a vice president for energy and environment at the RPA, told Bloomberg. “But we’re not naive enough to think that we can get there that quickly,” Freudenberg added.
Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, on the other hand, argues that the province’s hydroelectricity is competitive.
“If, despite these arguments contracts don’t get signed, we don’t depend on them — we’ll do something else,” Leitao told Bloomberg in an interview.
New York and Massachusetts will soon decide how competitive Quebec’s hydropower is when they award the projects that will grow their clean energy power generation.