Uprates of its existing nuclear power reactors has helped Exelon meet its self-imposed greenhouse gas emissions target seven years earlier than planned. The utility has called on US policymakers to recognize nuclear's role in meeting the country's emission reduction goals.
In 2008, Exelon launched its Exelon 2020: A low carbon roadmap business strategy, under which it aimed to reduce, offset or displace its 2001 carbon footprint by the year 2020. It aimed to eliminate 17.5 million tonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions primarily through energy efficiency and smart grid programs, economic renewable energy investments, and increased output from its nuclear power plants.
"The unfortunate reality for nuclear right now is that despite being the largest, most reliable and lowest-emitting power plants - and among the lowest cost - they are not getting recognized or compensated for those attributes."
William Von Hoene,
Exelon chief strategy officer
The company has now announced that in 2013 it reduced or avoided more than 18 million tonnes of emissions, meeting its goal seven years earlier than planned. Exelon said that it was able to meet its target early despite the energy industry undergoing major changes since it launched Exelon 2020. These changes include the natural gas boom, the growth of renewables and the expansion of "beyond-the-meter solutions."
As well as the closure of four inefficient, carbon-intensive fossil generating units under the Exelon 2020 program, the company has added 316 MWe of generating capacity at its nuclear power plants since 2008 through a series of uprates. Exelon is the operator of the largest nuclear power plant fleet in the USA with 22 units at 13 sites, plus a 43% interest in the two-unit Salem plant. Its total nuclear generating capacity is 21,682 MWe. Exelon estimates that these plants avoid some 82 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
Exelon president and CEO Chris Crane commented, "Our reliable, always-on nuclear fleet produces enough affordable, carbon-free energy to power 17 million homes annually." He added, "It is part of a US fleet that provides 64% of our nation's carbon-free electricity, up to a quarter of which could be at risk of early retirement."
Speaking at a meeting of the United States Energy Association in Washington DC yesterday, Exelon chief strategy officer William Von Hoene said that US policymakers must avoid early retirements of nuclear power plants.
"The unfortunate reality for nuclear right now is that despite being the largest, most reliable and lowest-emitting power plants - and among the lowest cost - they are not getting recognized or compensated for those attributes," he said. "Renewable energy is an important and growing part of our own generation portfolio and a critical component of our efforts to advance clean energy, but government policies designed to incent investment in low-carbon resources end up threatening that very goal by putting increased economic pressure on certain nuclear plants."
Von Hoene warned that the USA would not be able to meet its emission reduction targets without its nuclear fleet. "The loss of 25% of existing nuclear facilities would cut US progress toward achieving its 2020 climate change goals in half," he suggested. "In fact, closing even a few nuclear plants could make achieving state and national carbon reduction goals difficult or impossible." The Obama administration has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.
He stressed, "Our state and federal lawmakers need to seriously examine, now, how their policies must change if they want to preserve the benefits of the nation's nuclear fleet."
Last year saw four US power reactors at three sites - Crystal River, Kewaunee and San Onofre - enter early retirement for economic reasons. These retirements amounted to 3576 MWe of capacity, reducing the US total nuclear generating capacity to 99,098 MWe at 100 reactors.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News