The debate over subsidizing uneconomic nuclear plants continues as New Jersey joins New York in supporting the plants for their “zero emission” benefit, while Energy Secretary Rick Perry has yet to decide whether to offer support to FirstEnergy Solution’s nuclear units.
The New Jersey Legislature on April 12 approved a bill establishing a zero emissions support program for licensed nuclear plants that can show they would close without outside financial support. PSEG, the state’s largest utility, supported the bill, calling it a safety net for its 2,296 MW, two-unit Salem and 1,172 MW single-unit Hope Creek generating plants. PSEG owns 57% of Salem and all of Hope Creek.
“The Legislature just gave PSEG the biggest corporate subsidy in state history,” says Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. The utility could receive $300 million a year under the legislation, which Gov. Phil Murphy (D) must sign.
Lawmakers also approved a renewable energy bill meant to push ahead Murphy’s plan to have 100% of the state’s energy come from clean sources by 2050. Tittel says the bill will block renewable energy development by adding a cost cap.
Ohio and Pennsylvania are also considering legislation to help FES save its three nuclear generating stations made uneconomic by low natural gas prices. A bill has been introduced in Ohio; Pennsylvania lawmakers are studying their options. In the meantime, the company has filed for bankruptcy and notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of plans to deactivate the units.
FES also asked Secretary Perry to invoke his emergency authority under the Federal Power Act to require PJM to purchase power from its coal and nuclear plants. Perry on April 12 told the House Energy and Commerce Committee the agency is likely to do something to support plants, but did not commit to an action.