NYPSC Approves Clean Energy Standard

Ginna nuclear power plant

The New York State Public Service Commission (NYPSC) approved the Clean Energy Standard designed to boost renewables and nuclear power in the state.

Commissioners stated their majority vote centered around three main points: grid reliability, keeping carbon emissions low and maintaining jobs. The standard would allow tradable credits for nuclear, solar and wind utilities estimated to be worth $965 million in the first two years. The state set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and generate half of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

“This is not an anti-gas movement, but one that recognizes the importance of fuel diversity as an integral part of a utility system,” said NYPSC Chair Audrey Zibelman. “We believe the actions we are taking today, we can all be proud of.”

Commissioner Diane Burman spoke of the blackouts in 1977 and 2003 and the fear of the unknown during the events.

“These are sharp reminders of the need for a reliable and resilient grid,” Burman said. She did say she understood the “concerns and passions of those who oppose nuclear power,” but also noted that many of the public comments from those against it were from people who did not live near plant sites.

“All of the comments for nuclear were from people who lived near nuclear plant site communities,” Burman said. “I gave more weight to those comments.”

Commissioner Gregg Sayre said he lives within 15 miles of Ginna nuclear plant and that the plant has been a “good neighbor.” He went on to say there are no plans to keep the standard around forever, but that the thousands of lost megawatts of nuclear generation cannot be replaced by renewables.

Utilities, scientists, environmentalists and industry and labor groups commented for the proposed standard that would value nuclear’s carbon-free generation attributes and help support financially-struggling plants in the state. The standard would also give incentives to renewable energy and distributed energy projects.

Entergy (NYSE: ETR) announced it would shut down the FitzPatrick nuclear plant in upstate New York by 2017, and Exelon (NYSE: EXC) threatened to shut down the Nine Mile Point and Ginna nuclear plants if the standard was not passed. Exelon is in talks with Entergy to potentially buy FitzPatrick and keep it operating.

Indian Point nuclear plant was initially not included in the standard because there was a provision that required plants to be fully licensed. Indian Point’s license expired, but the plant can continue operating under a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission provision that allows operation so long as the license renewal process is underway. Governor Andrew Cuomo has vehemently been against relicensing Indian Point due to its close proximity to New York City. However, that provision, along with another that required plants to prove they are struggling, were both removed.

"The work in New York is not done," said Nuclear Matters co-chair and former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH). "Several of the existing facilities have refueling and capital investment decisions to make. It is important that the order be issued and the CES implemented in an expeditious manner."

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