New York will subsidize nuclear plants against natural gas to meet clean energy goals

New York’s Public Service Commission enacted a landmark Clean Energy Standard that calls for propping up the state’s ailing nuclear plants with a multibillion-dollar subsidy. It’s the most significant step yet by a state government to rescue nuclear power providers, which have been buffeted by low-priced electricity from natural-gas plants.

Under the new plan, ratepayers will subsidize the operation of three of the state’s four nuclear power stations through 2029, providing funding that will average about half a billion dollars a year and could total $7.6 billion. The plan also aims to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent and produce half the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The plants’ operators had publicly stated that they planned to shut down if regulators didn’t come up with public funding. Entergy, which owns the James A. FitzPatrick plant, situated on the shore of Lake Ontario, said it would shut the plant down by early 2017. Exelon, owner of the R.E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point plants, has said it would close those plants in the next few years without state support. (The Indian Point Energy Center, located near New York City, is not included in the new subsidies because, the commission stated, power prices are higher in its region and the plant is not in danger of closing.)