New York took the unprecedented step Monday of approving a clean energy mandate that would save that state's struggling nuclear power plants from closing.
The Clean Energy Standard, championed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would ensure the financial stability of the state's nuclear plants by providing $965 million over two years.
The New York Public Service Commission approved the clean energy program Monday to ensure that 50 percent of the state's energy comes from renewable and clean energy resources by 2030, including the reactors. Cuomo needs the reactors to stay online in order to meet New York's greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.
Most states with similar programs only support renewable energy, and do not support nuclear reactors, even though they generate electricity with zero emissions.
The roughly 100 nuclear reactors in the U.S. have been under increasing market pressure, forcing some utilities to decide to close power plants due to increasing competition from low-cost natural gas power plants. Another factor is federal incentives for wind energy that distort the market and make it harder for the reactors to justify the cost of producing electricity.
"New York's visionary Clean Energy Standard blazes a vitally important public policy path," said Marvin Fertel, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute industry group. "It establishes an important state policy precedent for efforts to achieve significant carbon reductions from all clean energy sources while maintaining a healthy economy."
"Policymakers and leaders in other states should closely review New York's Clean Energy Standard and work expeditiously to enact comparable policies that preserve these vital clean energy assets," said Fertel.
Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill sparred over including nuclear power plants in debating a federal Clean Energy Standard during President Obama's first term in office. Passing a national clean energy program was the administration's top energy priority back then. The plan stalled in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, forcing states to continue their broad patchwork of clean energy programs.
Fertel's group said keeping the reactors online will save ratepayers tens-of-millions of dollars by foregoing the need to replace the power plants with fossil fuels that would only increase emissions.