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Should existing New York power plants be retro-fitted to produce clean energy?

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  • Rebecca Swift 

Right now, the plan through the Climate Action Council is to start closing down power-generating facilities.

That’s according to John Murphy. He leads the Clean Energy Jobs Coalition of New York. He’s also an international representative for the United Association of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Sprinkler Fitters. He represents more than 24,000 UA members in New York State. 

“We say, clean them first,” Murphy said. “Especially the fact that New York State is taking the lead and trying to create a Northeast hydrogen hub. There’s trillions of dollars a year being spent on hydrogen infrastructure. We’d be right in the center of that and we’d be able to retro-fit fossil fuel plants, to hydrogen plants. Zero emissions. Zero carbon emissions. Great, high-skilled union jobs. And reliable forms of power.”

 That’s why Murphy believes existing power plants should be upgraded, not shut down.

“What we need to do is shore up the reliable energy,” he said. “There’s two that come to mind immediately in the Hudson Valley. There’s Danskammer Energy, and you have NRG which is in Queens. Peaker plants only run when there is not enough power to supply the grid. Almost like a generator in your home. Those two projects were ready to start. They would retrofit those plants to run on 30% hydrogen from day one. So they’d be much more efficient, much cleaner, and would only run if we needed the energy on the grid. They were stopped because of the CLCPA. It put 1200 building tradesmembers out of work for three years and still jeopardizes the reliability of the grid.”

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Murphy said he butts heads with some environmental groups. He said that’s because some want only solar, offshore wind, and hydro-electric forms of energy from Canada. He said that should be one piece of the puzzle, not all.

“We think about the push to bring manufacturing back to New York State,” he said. “In order to bring manufacturing back, you need reliable, dispatchable energy. At the same time, we want to have clean, dispatchable energy. And that’s possible. But it’s not possible at this stage of the transition, to have all renewable. Because there’s no storage available. You need reliable, dispatchable, clean energy.”

Alternative clean sources, he said, are hydrogen, nuclear and biofuels. Things that are low-to-no carbon emissions, but not necessarily renewable. “When they talk about renewable, it’s typically sun, wind and water alone,” he added. “And that’s good. And we say, build all you can. But it’s still not enough. You need to have other forms of reliable energy and you want to make sure it’s clean.”

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