Op-Ed: Nuclear Industry Provides Diversity and Reliability in PA’s Energy Market


The energy industry is one of the most important sectors of Pennsylvania’s economy, and it is critical that we do all that we can to ensure a diverse set of highly reliable energy sources in order to sustain a healthy wholesale energy market.

While Pennsylvania currently benefits from numerous sources of electric generation – including coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydroelectric, and renewables – I have deep concerns about the way our wholesale electric markets are constructed.

In current practice, the market buys electricity solely on the basis of short-term cost. That means whatever source is cheapest today is what is being purchased and built for the long-term.

As a result, the electricity grid is increasingly migrating to natural gas-fired generation and away from sources like nuclear energy. That has created a situation in which some of our most highly reliable, best performing power plants are in financial distress and are in danger of prematurely decommissioning or closing.

Forcing out high-performing and reliable energy sources could have some serious consequences for all Pennsylvanians in the long run. This approach may be beneficial for the moment, but there are no guarantees that other energy sources will remain reliable and affordable in the future.

If the grid becomes heavily reliant on a single source, such as natural gas, then consumers could face massive rate hikes if the price for that product goes up as expected. There would be no other source to counterbalance those cost increases.

In addition, any interruption in service could have a catastrophic impact on the grid as a whole, creating a whole host of negative consequences for consumers.

Pennsylvania has maintained a diverse portfolio of energy sources for many years, and for good reason. It is the best way to ensure consumers get the most reliable and affordable product. Today, due to the nature of how the wholesale markets are working, we could lose that benefit.

I am a supporter of all of our Commonwealth’s energy sources, and I am continuing to explore how other states are working through similar issues. My goal is to ensure Pennsylvania consumers do not suffer any of the negative impacts posed by premature nuclear plant closures.

That is why I have supported efforts being undertaken by the federal Department of Energy to maintain fuel-secure electric generation sources.

A recent report by the Department demonstrated the vulnerabilities of the grid if nuclear energy were removed from the equation, and published a rule directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address these issues in the wholesale electric markets.

To be clear, I do not believe in any sort of state-sponsored subsidy or bail-out for the nuclear industry. No legislation has ever been introduced in Pennsylvania that would provide for state taxpayer subsidies toward nuclear power plants.

The oil and gas industry has framed the issue as a giveaway to corporate interests in marketing its “No Nuke Bailout” program. While I appreciate the fact that they are trying to protect their own economic interests, their rhetoric does not accurately reflect the reality of the situation.

Far too often, organizations that stand to financially benefit from the status quo engage in campaigns to solicit support based on false pretenses. This is one of those instances, and everyone should be aware of that. We need to be concerned with more than whether natural gas companies are making enough money.

It has become abundantly clear that there are billions of dollars at stake, and any changes to the wholesale electric markets will produce winners and losers.

My goal has been, and will continue to be, to make sure that the only “winner” that I work to advance are my constituents in Lancaster County and all the people of Pennsylvania. The biggest “win” is to ensure all of our most reliable and efficient energy sources remain part of the equation in the wholesale energy market.

Our Commonwealth will undoubtedly benefit from an energy portfolio that includes diversity, reliability and affordability, both now and in the future. I believe the nuclear industry has an important role to play in that future, and I am hopeful we can adopt policies that ensure this fuel source continues to provide electricity to Pennsylvania families for generations to come.