Source: NEI | Staff | August 2, 2016

  • NEI President and CEO Marvin Fertel on NY CESUse of zero-emission credits values carbon-free nuclear power plants
  • Timely intervention should preserve state’s at-risk nuclear facilities
  • Support voiced by AFL-CIO, Columbia University’s Hansen, ex-EPA’s Carol Browner

The New York Public Service Commission today unanimously approved the state’s first-ever Clean Energy Standard (CES), a policy championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo explicitly recognizing the role nuclear plants play as carbon-free sources of power.

“New York’s visionary Clean Energy Standard blazes a vitally important public policy path. It establishes an important state policy precedent for efforts to achieve significant carbon reductions from all clean energy sources while maintaining a healthy economy,” NEI President and Chief Executive Officer Marvin Fertel said.

New York’s CES will require 50 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030, with an aggressive phase in schedule over the next several years. Starting next year, the mandate will require all six of New York’s investor-owned utilities and other energy suppliers to pay for the intrinsic value of carbon-free emissions from nuclear power plants by purchasing zero-emission credits. This will allow upstate nuclear power plants to remain in operation during the state’s transition to 50 percent renewables.

“A growing number of climate scientists have warned that if these nuclear plants were to abruptly close, carbon emissions in New York will increase by more than 31 million metric tons during the next two years, resulting in public health and other societal costs of at least $1.4 billion,” the PSC said.

The PSC estimates that the CES will add less than $2 per month to the average residential customer’s bill.

“New York has taken bold action to become a national leader in the clean energy economy and is taking concrete, cost-effective steps today to safeguard this state’s environment for decades to come,” Cuomo said.

“This Clean Energy Standard shows you can generate the power necessary for supporting the modern economy while combatting climate change. Make no mistake, this is a very real threat that continues to grow by the day, and I urge all other states to join us in this fight for our very future.”

Fertel added that New York has shown the path forward for other states considering the best approaches to curtailing their carbon emissions.

“Gov. Cuomo and the Public Service Commission correctly acknowledge nuclear power plants as indispensable sources of emissions-free power, meriting explicit valuation by the state as a clean energy source. Other states should strongly consider emulating New York’s new energy standard,” Fertel said.

“This program provides enormous cost savings to New York’s consumers. The PSC staff estimates that the benefits of retaining the state’s nuclear plants in the first two years of the program, valued at $5 billion, dramatically outweigh the estimated costs of less than $1 billion.”

Other prominent figures have endorsed New York’s mandate, including James Hansen, adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

“I applaud Governor Cuomo, the New York Public Service Commissioners and the labor and community leaders for achieving this important victory to protect New York’s nuclear plants and thus the planet from climate change,” Hansen said. “California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio and other states around the nation should take notice of what real climate action looks like,” Hansen said.

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said the CES shows that economic growth and emissions reduction can be pursued together.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo for taking the lead in recognizing that nuclear energy must remain a part of the state’s clean energy plan,” Cilento said. “The clean energy standard sets a high but realistic goal that will show the nation we can fight climate change while preserving jobs at our existing nuclear plants and create new jobs as we build a clean energy economy for the future.”

Carol Browner, former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and Nuclear Matters Leadership Council member, said New York has set an example for others to follow.

“In sending a signal to other states that existing nuclear deserves to be properly credited for its carbon-free energy through the CES, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is setting the standard for a comprehensive approach to a low-carbon energy portfolio and will encourage other policymakers and regulators to similarly value nuclear energy for its clean air benefits,” Browner said.

The New York PSC has up to 30 days to issue the order establishing the CES, but may act sooner.