Originally published on Into the Wind.
By Peter Kelley
Last month, AWEA released a report that comprehensively rebuts claims made by Exelon, the largest merchant owner of nuclear power plants in the country, that the renewable tax credit is significantly affecting its profit margins. Since then, a growing chorus of other nuclear plant owners, utility leaders, and even a Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner have weighed in to validate the conclusions of our report and criticize Exelon’s attacks.
At the Commission’s public meeting last week, FERC Commissioner John Norris commented that AWEA’s report provides “very compelling evidence” that “the “PTC and negative pricing…are having none or negligible impact on nuclear facilities” and the need to get these types of false claims “out of our rhetoric.”
Several leading figures in the electric utility industry have now weighed in on wind energy’s benefits to the electricity market, supported by the renewable energy Production Tax Credit – including major owners of nuclear plants.
Their public statements stand in stark contrast to Exelon’s recent attempt to pin its financial woes on wind energy. A sample of what these other nuclear owners have said:
“Unfortunately, energy policy has become politicized by too much zero-sum thinking. Some say the shale gas revolution is bad for renewable energy. Others insist that renewable energy is bad for the nuclear business. Many are quick to criticize tax provisions related to one technology, such as the PTC, while being slow to acknowledge long-standing federal policies related to other technologies like oil and gas, solar, and nuclear energy. Investments and improvements in one technology must spell disaster for all the others, or so this thinking goes.
“My company thinks very differently. Yes, we are the largest wind developer in the country. Yet we also operate one of the nation’s largest nuclear fleets. We are a major developer of utility-scale solar power and we purchase more natural gas than any other U.S. electric utility.
“We do not merely advocate for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy — we live it. And from our perspective, nuclear plants in competitive markets are not challenged by wind energy but by low natural gas prices caused by the shale gas revolution.
“Blaming the wind industry for the challenges in the merchant nuclear business may be politically expedient, but it will not help any company or technology operate more successfully in a low natural gas price environment.”
— James L. Robo, chairman and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy Inc., op-ed in CQ Roll Call, “Congress Should Extend the Production Tax Credit, Develop a Long-Term Alternative,” April 7
“Negative pricing is not driven primarily by wind. There are issues with how nuclear plants respond to the changes in the marketplace and the need for more flexibility in dispatch. And of course, low gas prices are one of the big factors changing everything in the electricity market…but the negative price issue has been very, very rare for us, and we do not see it as a significant challenge. ”
— Frank Prager, VP of Policy & Strategy, Xcel, quoted in Greentech Media’s “Utility Exelon Wants to Kill Wind and Solar Subsidies While Keeping Nukes,” April 1
“Wind energy does not have a negative impact on electricity markets and does not cause nuclear plants to shut down. Merchant nuclear plants are challenged primarily by low natural gas prices. Killing the PTC will not change this. Eliminating the PTC would serve only to kill job-creating investments in renewable energy projects across the country, [obstructing] clean, reliable, and affordable energy that is produced right here in America.”
— John DiDonato, NextEra Energy Resources VP of Wind Development, also in above Greentech Media article
A Chicago reporter noted that David Crane of NRG Energy is highly critical of Exelon “for publicly advocating for the elimination of subsidies for wind and solar power and at the same time asking for public help to bolster the finances at several of its nukes in Illinois.”
“That’s just hypocritical. They just need to be more consistent in their positions. [The power industry] acts as if the American public existed to serve the grid rather than the grid existing to serve the American public. The power industry in its DNA is maybe the least innovative industry in the U.S., and maybe in the history of mankind…I’m not anti-utilities. I’m not anti-coal. I’m not anti-nuclear. I’m just anti-B.S.”
— NRG Energy Inc. CEO David Crane, new owner of Edison Mission Energy assets in Illinois, quoted in Crain’s Chicago Business, “New energy guy in town takes a shot at incumbent Exelon,” April 3
These statements reinforce what the American Wind Energy Association has been saying: “Wind energy’s impact on markets is positive, by displacing more expensive forms of energy,” as AWEA Director of Research Michael Goggin told E&E News for a March 28 story. He added: “Moreover, this impact is entirely market-driven, is widely seen as beneficial, and occurs for all low-fuel-cost sources of energy, including nuclear.”
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