Entergy unmoved by NY governor's plan to support nuclear generation

Dive Brief:

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) asked state regulators last week to work on ensuring markets and policies that accurately value the carbon-free electricity generated by nuclear facilities, Platts reports. 
  • Cuomo directed the Department of Public Service (DPS) to design and enact a new clean energy standard to reach 50% renewables by 2030, but warned that losing nuclear plants would "eviscerate" the emissions reductions already achieved in the state.
  • Exelon Corp. indicated it would support Cuomo's plan to keep three of its facilities operating in upstate New York, but Entergy Corp. said it was standing firm on its decision to shutter the James A. FitzPatrick plant.

Dive Insight:

Cuomo last week took a step towards codifying New York's 50% renewable goal, and in doing so, he called for support of the state's nuclear plants, several of which have been on the chopping block as companies face challenging market environments. But the state desperately needs those plants, according to Cuomo, and the governor has directed regulators to "develop a process to prevent the premature retirement of safe, upstate nuclear power plants during this transition."

"Elimination of upstate nuclear facilities ... would eviscerate the emissions reductions achieved through the state's renewable energy programs," he wrote in a letter to DPS chairwoman Audrey Ziebelman.

"The early closure of those plants would result in increased carbon pollution from fossil fuel generators, reduced fuel diversity and unstable electric prices, as well as job losses and economic distress in upstate communities," Cuomo wrote, adding that the support for nuclear plants is separate and distinct from the renewable energy mandate.

Platts reports that that Exelon has indicated it supports the plan, but Cuomo's moves had little support from Entergy. Both companies have nuclear facilities struggling in the state.

"The governor recognizes something needs to be done in a market that doesn't recognize the zero-carbon attributes of nuclear generation," Exelon executive vice president Joseph Dominguez told Platts. "It is a significant step forward for the industry."

But Entergy, which has plans to close the FitzPatrick plant, said no policy changes could push it to keep the facility open. "We have explored every legitimate commercial arrangement that might have changed the decision regarding FitzPatrick's retirement. There is no viable alternative left to consider," Entergy spokeswoman Tammy Holden told Platts.

The plant has more than 600 employees, and in addition to losing the carbon-free energy it provides, closing the plant would crush the local economy, Cuomo said. Last month, he vowed to do everything possible to keep it operating.

“The closing of the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant will devastate the lives of the more than 600 employees and their families," Cuomo said in a statement. "Good corporate citizenship must appreciate that there are many factors that count as the 'bottom line.' The State of New York will pursue every legal and regulatory avenue in an attempt to stop Entergy’s actions and its callous disregard for their skilled and loyal workforce.”

Entergy and Cuomo have also debated whether or not the 2,147 MW Indian Point nuclear plant in New York should be relicensed. Concerns over the plant's proximity to New York City, its aging reactors, and the possibility of transformer fires and emergency repairs has propelled efforts to close the plant.

Cuomo has requested that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission deny the company's relicensing request. Last month, the state denied a water use permit for the nuclear plant.

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