The Long Island Power Authority, owner of the electrical system, and PSEG Long Island, which operates it, are starting a yearlong study to examine different options and ensure a seamless transformation, LIPA officials said in presentations to trustees and in interviews with Newsday.
Experts from Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory will assist in the study.
It’s an enormous task: Develop a road map to a carbon-free energy grid by 2040, by shutting down Long Island’s aging fossil-fuel plants and replacing them with largely intermittent sources such as wind and solar.
The “integrated resource plan” is a 20-year “look-ahead” that will “examine our options and identify the need for renewable and energy storage [battery] technologies to replace the fossil fuel and nuclear generation we currently rely on,” Rick Shansky, LIPA senior vice president for power supply and wholesale markets, told trustees at a recent meeting.
Peak energy consumption is expected to continue to decrease over the next seven years as it has for the past several years, the result of more efficient lighting and appliances and more solar power on the grid.
But by 2028, peak usage is projected to begin a gradual increase as the grid is used to charge an ever-growing fleet of electric cars, and all-electric heat pumps begin to replace fossil-fuel heating systems on a larger scale.
Last year, 5,973 heat pumps were installed across Long Island, according to LIPA figures. LIPA has 1.1 million customers.
According to the latest LIPA projections, Long Island by 2025 will have 750 megawatts of solar power installed, and about 30,000 heat pumps operating across the region.
By 2030, around 375 megawatts of battery storage will be in place — compared with about 10 megawatts today — and by 2035, 1,125 megawatts of offshore wind power will be on the grid.
One megawatt of offshore wind power can provide enough energy for around 320 homes, while a megawatt of solar energy can power 125 homes.
Meanwhile, the fleet of large and small natural gas and oil-fired plants on Long Island gradually will disappear. LIPA’s contract for National Grid’s large and small plants expires by 2028, and LIPA already has begun to set up programs to retire some units before that date.
“We’re going from a system that was built up over the years based on fossil plants and dispatchable generation that the system operator can control minute-by-minute to a system that’s based on intermittent resources — solar and wind — that are not directly under the control of the system operator but at the whim of the forces of nature,” Shansky said, in a presentation to LIPA trustees who must approve the program.
For that reason, increasing amounts of battery storage will be necessary throughout Long Island to provide energy for periods when sun and wind power aren’t available.
“Energy storage will play a big role in that,” Shansky said.
Shansky said LIPA has begun the process of identifying power plants primarily run on fossil fuels “that will be slated for retirement.”
By 2030, he said, “Nearly all our contracts are up and so we will have decisions to make about a lot of these resources.”
By 2040, “under current regulations they’re all going to have to retire,” Shansky said. “And so we need to do it in an orderly fashion because you can’t replace everything in a short period of time.”
LIPA over the past decade has been challenging the property taxes on the largest power plants and power stations, aiming to reduce the nearly $200 million it pays each year by approximately 47% by 2027, as plant contracts expire.
Settlement agreements give LIPA the option to extend the final-year tax payments for up to five years.
Under LIPA’s timeline, the current mix of fossil-fuel-based energy and off-Island contracts, which now supply about 82% of the power mix, will be reduced to 32% by 2030.
Renewables that now make up around 3% of the mix will increase to around 58%.
Nuclear power, currently around 15%, will be reduced to about 10%, LIPA figures show. LIPA owns an 18% stake in nuclear plant Nine Mile Point II in upstate New York. The state clean-energy standard recognizes nuclear power as necessary to meet state clean-energy goals.
LIPA chief Tom Falcone said much of the work that will underpin the new yearlong study already has begun.
LIPA, for instance, has committed to purchasing some 3,400 megawatts from clean power sources scheduled to come onto the grid between now and 2030.
There are “a lot of things to be excited about. This is about the future,” Falcone said, noting that much of the planning activity will happen in the next year.
Energy activists, some still reeling from LIPA’s decision to keep PSEG Long Island, the New Jersey-based power service provider, in place until at least 2025 after overwhelming support for a fully public LIPA, expressed wariness about the new study.
“Confidence in LIPA is low right now and trust in PSEG even lower,” said Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a nonprofit activist group.
Madden said the new study will require widespread public support and input, “just for the siting of the new infrastructure alone.”
But Madden expressed concern about whether LIPA would take public input seriously. He noted LIPA’s decision to move ahead with PSEG after a majority of public commenters called for LIPA to become a fully public utility.
“We’ve seen recently that even public comments do not strongly impact LIPA’s thinking,” said Madden. “LIPA needs a real plan for community engagement that is currently missing.”
Michael Menser, a professor of philosophy and urban sustainability studies at Brooklyn College and the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, said LIPA’s contributions to state green-energy goals are “way too low.”
Menser was referring to the findings of the Long Island Solar Roadmap, a report published this year by the Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife that said the region has enough “low-impact” sites, including large rooftops and parking lots, for locating nearly 19,500 megawatts of solar without affecting “ecologically important” areas.
Menser also criticized LIPA’s new study plan for “missing a key area of focus for our climate vulnerable region: adaptation, resilience, and grid reliability. We need to underground our power lines to start and ensure our system is prepared for the extreme weather events to come.”
The study of power resources is expected to take a little over a year. LIPA will hold public hearings both before it begins to determine the scope and, later, its draft conclusions. The final report is expected to be released in the third quarter of 2022.
Customers who have questions or want to provide direction about how LIPA should move forward can email the authority at IRP@lipower.org.
Read More: LIPA: Green energy to dominate LI electric grid by 2030