On May 23, Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey signed a bill that will subsidize three of the state’s nuclear power plants. These power plants have been struggling financially for the past few years. New Jersey residents will be spending $300 million dollars a year to keep these nuclear power plants operating.
All of this is part of an initiative by the state of New Jersey to use power that emits no carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon free energy credits will also help the power plants financially. Every power plant will be issued carbon credits by the state, and, since nuclear power plants do not use any carbon energy sources, the plants will be able to sell their unused credits to other types of power plants or factories that need them in order to meet New Jersey’s carbon emissions standards. This, along with the $300 million dollars, will allow the nuclear facilities to have the funding to keep running at least in the near term.
Nuclear power plants emit no carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases. The US has ninety-nine nuclear reactors. Wind and solar energy are other sources of carbon-free power, but the nuclear plants provide 60 percent of the nation’s carbon free energy. Unlike wind and solar power, nuclear power plants are dispatchable energy sources, not reliant on intermittent wind and sun conditions.
New Jersey has thirty-four working power plants and stations that include coal, natural gas, hydro-electric, and solar power plants. The three nuclear plants funded in this bill provide 40 percent of New Jersey’s energy needs. There are 5,800 people employed by the nuclear power stations. The carbon free energy, the quantity of energy, and the number of people employed seem to be the reasons that these struggling plants will receive extra funding to remain open.
Utility customers in New Jersey will notice an increase in their power bills. The $300 million dollars that the governor approved in funding will ultimately come customer’s in the form of increased rates. The state’s commitment to lowering carbon emissions seems to indicate that rate hikes will happen again in the future in order to keep clean energy growing.
New Jersey has one other nuclear plant that will be closing in October. Fracking has lowered fuel costs for power plants fueled by natural gas. This lowering of energy prices is what has made the nuclear plants a monetary albatross. Natural gas power plants emit carbon dioxide; nuclear power plants emit none. But the natural gas plants’ cheaper rates are causing companies that own nuclear facilities to consider shuttering them in order to focus on the cheaper energy source. Funding programs like the one New Jersey has implemented may become necessary in many states if nuclear energy is going to be a power option in the future.