Exelon Generation, which operates the R.E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear power plants in New York State, applauded the New York Public Service Commission's decision late last week to include nuclear power in the state's Clean Energy Standard portfolio.
Exelon said it “commends the New York State Public Service Commission for voting unanimously … to move forward with the ambitions Clean Energy Standard that values the vital environmental and economic benefits of nuclear energy.”
Exelon operates 23 reactors at 14 locations in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Nebraska, New York and Pennsylvania, But the company has run into stiff economic headwinds due to increased competition from low-priced natural gas and federal subsidies for renewable energy, most notably for wind power projects.
The company has said that the Ginna nuclear power plant was at risk of closing for economic reasons. Entergy, which operates the James A. Fitzpatrick plant in New York, has said that it would close that plant late this year or in early 2017 also due to economic reasons. At least 600 jobs would disappear if that plant closes.
The Ginna power plant near Rochester is considered on economic life-support. Exelon subsidiary Constellation Energy Nuclear Group and Rochester Gas and Electric have a reliability support services agreement in place that is expected to end March 31, 2017. In a September, 2015 affidavit, Exelon vice president of nuclear finance Jean M. Jones said “it appears highly unlikely that there will be an incentive for Ginna to return to the market after RSSA termination.”
There are currently six nuclear reactors in the state, two at Nine Mile Point, two at Indian Point and one each at Ginna and Fitzpatrick. The Indian Point facility, however, is under pressure to close from the New York Department of State, which is challenging its license renewal application. This leaves the plant out of the mix when it comes to the Clean Energy Standard portfolio, according to the World Nuclear Association.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been seeking to close Indian Point, which he calls an unacceptable risk to public safety, given its location in Westchester County, close to New York City. However, the governor has stressed that he considers the FitzPatrick plant, located outside of Syracuse, a different situation. In October, Cuomo said it would be “frightening” if the FitzPatrick plant were to close, taking valuable jobs and affordable electricity along with it.
The state is now working on a long-term goal of reaching 50 percent electricity generation through renewable sources by 2030. The new standard stress that nuclear power is a viable bridge to reach that goal. The announcement that nuclear power would be considered part of that bridge came on the heels of the creation of a $5 billion fund to help the state transition its energy portfolio.
“As operator of one of the nation's leading clean energy fleets, Exelon Generation fully supports policies that promote the transition to low-carbon generation while avoiding the premature retirement of clean, safe and reliable nuclear facilities,” Excelon said in a statement.
Details on the CES strategy are expected to be ready for the commission's consideration in June.
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