Sunday, October 25, 2015

Carbon taxes and the Fitzpatrick plant: a reason to sign the petition

The petition

There's a petition to save the Fitzpatrick plant.  The petition is addressed to Entergy.  I think it should be addressed to Governor Cuomo, as you can tell by my post on Governor Cuomo, Fitzpatrick and Money.  At any rate, I signed the petition.

I encourage you to sign the petition to show support of Fitzpatrick.  More signatures will be a good thing, wherever the petition is addressed.

Carbon dioxide taxes?

Some of the people who signed the petition also left comments.  I was particularly struck by a comment that noted that many states are considering carbon taxes.  If carbon is taxed, that will increase people's electricity bills. If Fitzpatrick is not running, and most of its power is made by natural gas plants, there will be an increase in people's electricity bills.

I decided to do a quick and dirty calculation of the amount of money Fitzpatrick will save New Yorkers…if there is a carbon tax.  Here's my calculation, and my sources.  I invite comments and corrections.

Fitzpatrick and carbon taxes:

How much energy: 
Fitzpatrick makes 838 MW of dependable capability. Source, Entergy Nuclear.
There are 8760 hours in a year.
I assumed a 90% capacity factor, which is on the low side for the nuclear fleet.
At that point, we have 838 MW x 1000 kW per MW x 8760 hours per year x 0.9 hours operating per year, and we have

Fitzpatrick produces 6,606,792,000 kWh in a year of operation.

Saving how much carbon:
Okay, now, what if that power was produced by a gas-fired plant?

Gas plants make, on average, 1.21 lbs of carbon dioxide per kWh. Source: EIA

This number is an average for gas-fired plants, and no doubt someone will come up with a lower number, with the assumption that only bright shiny new combined cycle plants should be counted.  Since these shiny new plants would still only be part of the local fleet of gas plants, I will stick with my number.
carbon dioxide

So, now we have 7,994,218,000 lbs of carbon dioxide being produced if Fitzpatrick nuclear station is replaced by gas plants.  And now, a brief pause to realize that that Fitzpatrick save 7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

Next, let's look at money.

In terms of carbon taxes:
Carbon taxes. This is where it gets a little tricky. There are plenty of carbon tax bills introduced, often for as much as $40 per ton.  However, that feels a little theoretical for me.  I can't find a place where a carbon tax is really that high.

So I went to a website that compares carbon taxes, world-wide, and came to the conclusion that $20/ton, as in British Columbia, was a number that I was more comfortable with using.

 7,994,218,000 lbs of carbon dioxide x 1 ton/2000 lbs is 3,997,109 tons of carbon dioxide.

At $20/per ton, this would be $79,942,183 dollars paid in carbon taxes, by the citizens of New York, to support the natural gas power that would replace Fitzpatrick.

Call to Action!

Assuming only modest carbon tax is introduced, a tax at half the number ($40/ton) that is often bandied about, continued operation of Fitzpatrick will save the ratepayers of New York, about $80 million a year in carbon taxes. If the big number ($40/ton) is used, Fitzpatrick will save ratepayers $160 million a year in carbon taxes.

In short, if the state of New York is serious about reducing carbon dioxide and saving money for all ratepayers, a modest amount of support to Fitzpatrick is in the interest of everyone in the state.

(And that doesn't even count the well-known volatility of natural gas prices. Natural gas won't be cheap forever.)

So, your action is simple:

Sign the petition! 

And, if you live in New York, contact your state legislator and your congressman.


Meredith Angwin said...

FWIW, a Department of Energy paper claims that capturing carbon from an advanced natural gas combined cycle plant would cost $83 per avoided ton of CO2, far more than the $40 and $20 dollars per ton taxes in this post.

Engineer-Poet said...

Meredith, that's just the capturing.  Shipment and disposal isn't included.

The savings in carbon fees would have paid for around half of the costs for standby fuel supplies in the New England grid... which might not have been needed if VY and the rest had stayed on-line.  The top Greens are bought, the average environmentalist is duped, the public is being sheared.

Anonymous said...

Meredith, another way of looking at this is the cost per kw-hr. Using your numbers I get just over a penny a kw-hr. So for someone using 750 kw-hr per month, that's an extra $8 on their power bill, or say an additional $100 every year. An increase like that hurts the most for people struggling to get by -- a regressive tax. Of course it hurts businesses too, especially those using lots of electricity. And who gets hurt when businesses cut back? Again, those who can least afford it. Electrical service can be a great equalizer, raising the living standard for everyone. The nitwits in public office today seem not to appreciate that.

Anonymous said...

The Energy Information Administration website has the actual output for every power plant at this link:

From the dropdown menu, select "Plant Level Data" and enter the name of the plant where it says "search all fields."

Your calculations were very good! Fitzpatrick produced 5,828,694 mWh in 2014, 6,839,822 mWh in 2013, 6,970,526 mWh in 2012, and 7,243,996 in 2012.