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IS OHIO GOING NUCLEAR?



As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, “the bill would create a new $300 million program, issuing energy credits for carbon dioxide-free power generation. More than half of the money would go to First Energy Solutions, the operator of two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio that has said it needs subsidies in order to keep the plants operating beyond 2021.”


Allow OHFF to take you through some of the history surrounding other states that have faced similar energy dilemmas.

In states such as Pennsylvania, nuclear plants are their main source of energy. Nuclear power is not included in most states Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) these programs give profitably incentives to environmentally friendly sources of energy. Is leaving nuclear plants out of the “Green” equation like leaving carrots off the list of healthy vegetables? Should they be included to the zero-emission programs? Would it be wise to give nuclear power the same incentives as wind, solar, and hydroelectric to keep electricity rates in check?


If nuclear plants close they would be replaced primarily by natural gas and output of existing coal plants. That takes us to Vermont which closed their only nuclear plant in 2014 but didn't use the plant for three years prior to the final closing date. Vermont closed its nuclear plant due to the shift in natural gas. The shift resulted in sustaining low natural gas prices and low wholesale energy prices. There was a 13 percent increase in the use of natural gas generated electricity. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has reported that biomass power plants produce one-third more carbon emissions than coal plants. This would be a reason as to why Vermont has seen a slightly higher carbon emission rate.


Vermont had one of the smallest nuclear plants in the United States when it closed. Yet it would take roughly 59 wind farms to replace the energy output of its now-retired nuclear plant, which would tremendously increase rates for the states consumers.

Vermont enjoys their grid on the abundance of natural gas, and the people have cheaper monthly electric bills to date. Natural gas supplied 5.5 percent more of New England's electrical demand after Vermont Yankee was closed. New England dropped nuclear generation by 34 percent of the states electrical demand in 2014 to 29.5 percent in 2015. New England had a major change that was a decrease in coal generation from 4.6 percent to 3.6 percent of the regions electricity demand.


New England experienced all these changes to the states grid with the electricity demand remaining flat.


Low natural gas prices result in low wholesale energy prices reducing profitability for any nuclear plant. With New England's substitution of natural gas in place of nuclear, it has proven to be an economical fit for the consumer and the states budget.


The closing of Ohio's nuclear plants will result in additional natural gas consumption which is in abundance. The shale gas renaissance will produce low natural gas prices and low wholesale energy prices, but could cement Ohio into an “energy-silo,” causing prices to become wholly dependent on natural gas production.


Relying on one major power source with the adequate infrastructure could result in unreliable electricity generation that then could spike electricity rates on consumers.


Sources:

[i] https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/04/16/bernie-sanders-denies-closure-of-vermont-nuclear-plant-increased-emissions-the-data-says-otherwise/

[ii] Energy Information Adminstration Yankee nuclear plant closure in 2014 will challenge New England energy markets, September 6, 2013,

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=12851

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