PSEG files applications to extend ZECs on nuclear plants

Utility says they’re needed to preserve state’s largest source of carbon-free electricity

In a move that Public Service Enterprise Group feels will help preserve New Jersey’s largest carbon-free source of electricity and help the state achieve its clean energy goals, PSEG filed applications Thursday to extend Zero Emission Certificates for the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants in Salem County.

PSEG, the state’s largest utility, said nearly 40% of New Jersey’s energy supply is carbon-free because of PSEG’s nuclear plants. The utility also said nuclear energy delivers more than 90% of all of the state’s carbon-free energy.

Rick Thigpen, PSEG’s senior vice president for corporate citizenship, said the plants are essential to the state’s ability to successfully achieve its goal of a 100% carbon-free energy supply by 2050.

“Nuclear energy already is New Jersey’s largest source of carbon-free electricity; no other energy source currently comes close,” he said. “We want to continue to partner with Gov. Phil Murphy and other state leaders to ensure that New Jersey’s nuclear plants are able to continue generating electricity — while producing zero carbon emissions — long into the future.”

PSEG’s applications seek an extension of ZECs that were first established last year.

In April, the state’s Board of Public Utilities issued an order determining that PSEG’s Hope Creek, Salem 1 and Salem 2 nuclear plants were eligible to receive ZECs from April 2019-May 2022. PSEG now is applying for a three-year extension of the ZEC program.

According to PSEG, since the first ZEC eligibility period began, power markets have deteriorated significantly; thus, the financial needs of New Jersey’s nuclear plants have continued to grow.

Nationwide, nuclear plants continue to struggle economically to survive, the utility said. Since 2018, three nuclear plants have closed in the eastern U.S., all for economic reasons, and the impact has had a ripple effect.

PSEG officials feel if New Jersey’s nuclear plants were forced to shut down, the carbon-free energy they produce would primarily be replaced by existing fossil resources. The increased fossil generation would cause an immediate increase in carbon emissions, reducing air quality and working against the state’s long-term clean energy goals.

“New Jersey can only achieve its ambitious clean energy goals with nuclear energy in the mix,” Thigpen said.

Thigpen said preservation of PSEG’s New Jersey nuclear plants will help keep everyone’s energy costs down, with independent studies forecasting a $400 million-per-year increase in customers’ energy bills if these nuclear plants were to close.