I was stretching my legs at a rest stop along the NJ turnpike a couple weeks ago, en route to my childhood home for Christmas. The night air was brisk and clean (I was a good ways south of the infamous Jersey smell) and across the lot I saw two cars connected to odd white obelisks jutting out of the sidewalk. These were the new eVgo charging stations built by PSEG and EVgo over the summer that New Jersey is investing heavily in.
How cool is that?! I don’t own an electric car. It didn’t make sense for me, personally, but I believe in the benefits of reducing emissions and I would like to own one in the future - like the roughly 10,000 motorists in New Jersey have already made the switch. Emissions from electric cars are also lower in New Jersey than most of the country, because nuclear power plants supply nearly 50% of the electricity to those EVgo charging stations and the rest of the state.
Most of my time this last year has been spent on the road working to protect other nuclear plants. So it concerns me that those plants in Jersey, like those I’ve been working to save around the country, are currently at risk of closing.
I’m proud, though that my home state is taking this threat to our nuclear assets seriously.
A proposed bill, S3560 in the Senate and A5330 in the Assembly, gives authority to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to oversee the implementation of subsidy payments. The nuclear operators would be required to provide the board with any “information, financial or otherwise” that the board requires to determine whether the nuclear operator is “cash negative on annual basis” and the severity of that deficit if it exists.
Based on this analysis and changes in electricity prices the board may lower the rate increase used to fund these subsidies, but it may not increase it.
Additionally, nuclear operators must demonstrate that the electricity they generate would be replaced primarily with carbon emitting forms of energy. In other words, if there comes a time when wind and solar could feasibly replace these plants, then the subsidies stop.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities should not be assumed to rubber stamp a nuclear operator’s assertions, either. Connecticut passed a very similar bill recently, and their version of the board, the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority released a draft report last month that includes a finding that the nuclear operator there, Dominion’s Millstone plant, is profitable and does not need a subsidy.
Nuclear operators will receive the support they need to survive, and no more.
If these plants are allowed to retire, NJ electricity prices will be higher than they will be if we support them; the cost to replace their supply will be paid for with increased electricity prices. And those cars charging along the NJ Turnpike? Their effective emissions would nearly double.
This Christmas was tough for my family - it was the first without my father. He always talked about getting an electric car, which is maybe why I hope to buy one someday. Either way, I’m glad to know that as I continue to work to support nuclear in states and communities across the country, my home state is considering a practical solution to keep our nuclear strong.