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New Jersey Prepares to Implement Zero-Emission Credit Law

 

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As New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities conducts public hearings to consider how to implement the zero-emission credit (ZEC) program that Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law earlier this year, NEI President and Chief Executive Officer Maria Korsnick congratulated New Jersey for being in a "vanguard of states" that have recognized the vital role that nuclear energy plays in a clean energy future.

"By including nuclear energy as part of New Jersey's generating portfolio, baseload non-emitting electricity will work in concert with wind and solar to deliver the clean energy that will propel the state for decades to come," Korsnick said in testimony before the Board this week.

ZEC programs are a way to place a market value on the zero carbon attributes of nuclear energy in the same way that renewable energy certificate (REC) programs have done for solar and wind generation in many states for years. Doing so is vital to preserve nuclear power plants from premature closure, Korsnick said.

"Wholesale markets that only focus on short-term operational costs have not been designed to reflect the broader social benefits of environmental protection, fuel diversity and grid resilience that nuclear plants provide," she said in a written statement.

By establishing a ZEC program, New Jersey is exercising control over its energy future rather than allowing incomplete market signals to determine the shape of its electricity system.

Maria Korsnick, NEI President and Chief Executive Officer

New Jersey's Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants are the state's largest source of non-emitting generation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, those plants provided more than 95 percent of the state's carbon-free electricity and nearly 40 percent of its total electricity. By continuing to operate under a ZEC program, these plants will save almost 14 million tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to the emissions of all the cars in the state.

The Board is "well-positioned" to follow through in establishing a workable ZEC program, Korsnick added. They are similar to the REC programs that are in effect in many states including New Jersey, enabling a diversified clean energy portfolio for the state.

In addition, the other ZEC programs now in operation in New York, Illinois and Connecticut will serve to guide how these programs can successfully be put into operation. Both the New York and Illinois ZECs recently have been upheld in court against legal challenges. In crafting a policy with similar features to those states' programs, "the New Jersey ZEC will be on sound legal footing," Korsnick said.

"Once the New Jersey program is in place, these four states will have preserved over 11,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity from early retirement. The electricity they will generate is more than all of the solar power produced by U.S. utilities in 2017," she added.

Other voices from inside and outside the industry also weighed in at the hearings, including Joseph Accardo, deputy general counsel and chief regulatory officer of PSEG Services Corp., which operates the Salem and Hope Creek plants.

The New Jersey ZEC law provides the board with a "robust road map and clear guidance" on how to evaluate plants for eligibility in the program, Accardo said, adding that PSEG fully intends to participate in the process for its nuclear plants. "Implementation of the ZEC Law does not need to be daunting or overly complex."

Judd Gregg, former U.S. senator and New Hampshire governor and current member of Nuclear Matters' advocacy council, stated that if New Jersey's nuclear plants were to close prematurely, the state would be almost completely dependent on natural gas.

"I have seen this first-hand in New England," Gregg stated, adding that the closure of Vermont Yankee was attended by economic repercussions in his home state of New Hampshire.

"I encourage the [Board] to take the widest possible view of the economic and environmental benefits of nuclear power when developing its guidelines."

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