New York regulators propose nuclear power mandate in new clean energy plan
- Staff of the New York Public Service Commission this week issued a white paper on a new Clean Energy Standard proposed for the state, calling for utilities to purchase power from several struggling upstate nuclear facilities while also boosting renewables and energy efficiency, RTO Insider reports.
- By 2020, the state's utilities will need to be supplying 15.7% of their forecasted load from nuclear facilities that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has vowed to protect from closure.
- Plans also call for utilities to grow renewables use to almost 30% across the same time frame, an interim step towards the state's plan to reach a 50% renewables goal by 2030.
- Cuomo last week announced regulators had approved the 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund, designed to bolster the state's grid while also attracting third-party capital to the state and lowering consumers' energy bills.
Cuomo has previously said his administration would do everything within its power to save upstate nuclear plants that have struggled in the recent climate of low gas prices. The white paper released by the PSC this week fleshes out those plans, calling for nuclear generation mandates as a way to keep the plants afloat.
"The closure of the upstate New York nuclear plants due to the current natural gas market prices, and concomitant electric prices, would have a large negative impact on the state's ability to meet its carbon reduction goal," according to the white paper. Staff estimated that if the upstate New York power plants were to close in the near-term, the state would need to procure more gas-fired power which would contribute to an additional 15.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Entergy shuttered its Vermont Yankee plant a little more than a year ago as low gas prices made it uncomptitive in power markets. Those same pressures are being felt by the Ginna, James A. FitzPatrick and Nine Mile Point 1 and 2 plants, staff said.
Entergy announced it would close the FitxPatrick last year, a decision Cuomo has promised to fight.
The plan calls for creation of a third "tier" in the clean energy standard, adding nuclear generation to renewables and efficiency. By next year, utilities would need to supply 4.6% of their power from nuclear facilities, rising to 6.2% in 2018, 9.4% in 2019, and finally 15.7% in 2020. For renewable energy, the mandate rises from roughly 30% in 2020 to 50% in 2030.
The advocacy group Nuclear Matters issued a statement saying it applauded New York's decision "to include some of its existing nuclear energy plants in its carbon-cutting plan. This reinforces the fact that in order to make meaningful carbon reductions, nuclear energy must be a part of the mix."
However, the group added that "all of New York’s existing nuclear energy plants should be supported as part of the CES, not just those upstate"
Along with plans to preserve upstate nukes, Cuomo has repeadedly called for the closing of Entergy's Indian Point nuclear facility, arguing that it is not possible to develop a plan to safely operate the aging facility so close to New York City. But according to Nuclear Matters, the state’s current existing nuclear plants provide 60% of the state’s carbon-free power and over 30% of the state’s energy.
"Put simply, New York cannot afford to lose any of its existing nuclear assets, as this would hamstring the state’s ability to meet its clean energy goals," the group said. "Additional premature plant retirements would also come at a detriment to the reliability of the grid, thousands of jobs, and millions in tax revenues."
Gov. Cuomo directed regulators to develop the clean energy standard in a Dec. 2, 2015 letter and wants regulators to finalize the plan by thier June meetings. In the white paper, dated Jan. 25, regulators indicate that they will file an implementation plan on the clean energy standard within 30 days to allow stakeholders to comment further.
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