State officials devise plan save FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant, Entergy says it's too late

Feb 23, 2016

Update:

Just hours after the PSC announced its plan, Entergy said in a statement that the financial implications of the commission's efforts are too uncertain and that the proposal comes too late to save the FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant. The company said it will proceed with its plans to shutdown the FitzPatrick plant.

Earlier:

New York's Public Service Commission (PSC) is ordering its staff to develop a new rescue plan to help keep Oswego County's Fitzpatrick Nuclear Plant open.

The PSC, which approved the motion Tuesday, wants to find a way it can offer financial support to Fitzpatrick as soon as June, until it could take advantage of tax credits that are still under consideration. Those "zero-emission tax credits" (ZECs) would reward Fitzpatrick and other eligible nuclear facilities for not emitting carbon dioxide, similar to the subsidies the state offers to renewable sources of power. But the earliest those credits would be available is spring 2017. So, Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman says the state needs to find a way to extend Fitzpatrick's life for at least another year.

"I think it would be a shame if we saw units retire because we have low prices only to find four months later that the Clean Energy Standard with the ZECs would have met their economic needs," Zibelman said. 

Oswego County's Assemblyman Will Barclay complimented the move.

“I’m encouraged that the Public Service Commission has decided to expedite plans under the Clean Energy Standard to try and keep FitzPatrick operational," Barclay said in a statement. "These efforts run parallel to legislation that I’ve introduced, which would value nuclear as a zero-emission and dependable energy source that powers thousands of homes with electricity."

But, FitzPatrick's owner Entergy said even if the tax credits are approved, it's not financially feasible to wait that long. The company expects an annual loss of $60 million from FitzPatrick, so they are planning to close it in January. Meantime, the clock is ticking. Fitzpatrick needs to refuel this year and it's a lengthy process that needs to start sooner rather than later.

In addition to the environmental benefits of nuclear power's lack of carbon emission, the PSC said the state needs FitzPatrick for its bulk power. A recent grid reliability study completed by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) determined that the loss of Fitzpatrick and several other struggling power plants in the region would lead to a demand for replacement power sources, but not until 2019. NYISO officials said they are looking into finding replacement energy sources or transmission upgrades to bring in outside power into the region, but commissioners believe that finding a way to save FitzPatrick could solve that issue.