Georgia and New Jersey Governors Differ on
Clean Nuclear Power
New Jersey is in the middle of a legislative and energy policy conundrum as it faces the shutting down of its entire nuclear power fleet. On the other hand, Georgia is moving forward with additional nuclear capacity and the expansion of two new units at Plant Vogtle.
New Jersey’s power generation sector is 56.7% natural gas, 39.2% nuclear, 1.7% coal, 1.1% biomass and 0.9% solar. The state has three nuclear plants with one, Oyster Creek, already scheduled to close prematurely in 2019. As it stands now, New Jersey is also set to lose its other two nuclear plants, Hope Creek and Salem. If so, they will in effect lose 100% of their zero-carbon generation as well as the state’s most reliable baseload power.
A recent Brattle Study by Principals Mark P. Berkman and Dean M. Murphy, concluded that if the Hope Creek and Salem plants are shut down CO2 emissions would increase by almost 14 million tons, New Jersey’s annual state GDP would be reduced by $809 million per year, 5800 jobs would be lost, state tax revenue would decrease by $37 million, and electricity rates would actually rise if these plants are shut down.
A recent bill was put forward in the New Jersey legislature to subsidize the nuclear plants by way of a surcharge to ratepayers of $30-$40 per year . It’s a wise move and is proving to be even wiser given the impact of current northeast weather conditions on energy resources. However, the bill recently hit a political snag and is now being held back until New Jersey’s Governor-elect Phil Murphy assumes office and has time to reconsider the bill in order to ensure the bill has provisions for clean energy investments imperative for the Murphy administration. According to Murphy spokesman Dan Byan, “Gov.-elect Murphy is committed to building a 100 percent clean energy economy in New Jersey by 2050, and he believes that our existing nuclear facilities remain a vital link to the future.”
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, who was championing the bill, was understandably upset at the political roadblock, as was Public Service Enterprise Group CEO Ralph Izzo who pointed out that this loss in nuclear capacity will not be made up by renewables.
It would be easy to point out that this is a consequence of deregulated electricity markets that cannot properly value the non-monetized benefits of nuclear power. However, a more glaring point is the difference in how Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and New Jersey Governor-elect Phil Murphy characterize nuclear power. Gov.-elect Murphy doesn’t seem to value nuclear power as a clean energy resource, otherwise he wouldn’t hold back a bill that would keep the Hope Creek and Salem nuclear plants running. Nor would he refer to nuclear as only a link to a 100% clean energy future built entirely on renewable energy, which appears to be his energy platform.
On the other hand, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal applauded the recent Georgia Public Service Commission following its approval to move forward with Plant Vogtle. Gov. Deal’s statement: “I commend the Public Service Commission for its vision and foresight in approving continuation of the Plant Vogtle expansion while holding owners accountable to ratepayers. Investing in clean, sustainable energy infrastructure is a worthwhile endeavor that will have a positive economic impact as well.”
Elections have consequences, and New Jersey’s recent gubernatorial election just changed the conversation on nuclear power in New Jersey overnight. The story is quite different in Georgia where its governor understands that nuclear energy is clean energy and that science and engineering have not reserved the clean energy characterization for renewable energy only.
Two states–two completely different worldviews on nuclear power by the respective chief executives. In New Jersey, nuclear power is only a placeholder for an unproven 100% renewable energy future.
In Georgia, nuclear power is the future…and it’s a clean energy future.
The misleading narrative that renewable energy is the only clean energy is a disservice to the public and it needs to end—there’s simply too much at stake.