A big part of my job is working with members of state legislatures and their staffs. One the most important working relationships I have is with the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). State legislators from all over the country look to NCSL for policy analysis, leadership opportunities, state benchmarks and, most importantly, facts and information to help them shape policies on the issues that they face.
NCSL’s new report, “State Options for Keeping Nuclear in the Energy Mix,” has all the history, facts and figures to explain why state policies and the electricity markets have created unintended consequences for nuclear power. By introducing price competition and Renewable Portfolio Standards, which are meant to encourage new technologies, policymakers have inadvertently created a math problem that ends up subtracting nuclear.
It is hardly sensible to subsidize one form of zero-emissions energy in a way that pushes another form of zero-emissions energy out of the market.
In response to the alarming trend in nuclear plant closures, state policymakers have course corrected by starting their own trend: enacting new policies that will fully value the benefits that nuclear brings. The actions taken by Illinois and New York to preserve nuclear plants are explained in the NCSL report. Both states chose to take control of their energy infrastructure planning. Making electricity without emissions has always had a cost, but we have never had to pay separately for it. It’s kind of like how we always took for granted carry-on luggage space on airplanes until we were charged for it. Was it ever really free?
Although the NCSL report focuses on the preservation of today’s reactor fleet, other states are warming up to new nuclear energy projects. Wisconsin last year repealed a 33-year moratorium on new reactors. In 2016 in Kentucky, the State Senate voted to do the same, and the legislature will take up the question again this year. With almost a dozen other states with the same moratoriums, which state will be next?
There are many states that would like to be the leader of the pack and create incentives for advanced nuclear technologies. Take for instance New Mexico, which has commissioned a study on the feasibility of small modular reactors.
We have never had this amount of chatter around nuclear energy at the state level. This is thanks to the states that are taking the lead to keep nuclear energy in the mix for the benefit of their constituents. We look forward to the continued trend of state policies properly valuing nuclear power for providing emission-free, 24/7 electricity to tens of millions of households and businesses.
The above is a guest post from Christine Csizmadia, director of state governmental affairs and advocacy at NEI. Follow Christine on Twitter at @CCsizmadia.