The debate over whether electricity from nuclear reactors is renewable is well underway and now is pushing itself into lawmaking in selected states. The current actions are happening on two fronts.
First, nuclear plant operators are forever trying to boost the output of their reactors. At least one utility is trying to cast these efforts, called “ uprates,” as “renewable” sources of electricity under the definition of state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards. Second, certain utilities want to roll back the clock and classify all existing generation from nuclear as renewable.
There may be some merits to either approach but should either succeed, it could very well eliminate the need for more true renewables going forward because the mandates would have been met, especially if there is no robust “carve-out” for solar.
Nuclear interests, led by the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, tried the former approach in February and were defeated by the combined efforts of Suntech, First Solar, other solar companies and Arizona Public Service, a utility. The debate apparently cost Arizona the opportunity to land a module manufacturing plant from China’s Yingli Green Energy. Despite a federal incentive to locate in Arizona, Yingli switched its sights to Texas.
Exelon Corp., which owns Philadelphia-based utility Peco Energy, tried last week to get uprates classified as “Tier 1″ mainstream renewables (e.g. wind and solar) in Pennsylvania but were reportedly pushed back by the administration of Gov. Ed Rendell. That isn’t stopping the company, however, from reportedly trying the next best thing: to classify uprated generation as “Tier 2″ renewables as an amendment in the debate over House Bill 2405. House Bill 2405 would set the required percentage of electricity from renewables at 15% by 2025, with 3% coming from solar.
Stay tuned. State lobbyists say similar manuevers are almost sure to come in states with nuclear plants and an RPS, e.g. Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida.