State Headliners: Anti-nuclear Green New Deal hasn’t learned lesson from Vermont

By Guy Page

The Green New Deal’s dismissal of nuclear power dooms it to failure as a realistic plan to reduce carbon emissions. Doubters need only look at Vermont, a climate change expert wrote in Forbes Magazine recently.

“The Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., today excludes nuclear energy from the proposed mix. If it were ever actually attempted nationally, it would increase greenhouse gas emissions — just as a similar effort did in Vermont,” Michael Shellenberger wrote Feb. 7 for Forbes. Shellenberger is president of Environmental Progress, climate-change activists who support low-carbon nuclear power.

Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

Shellenberger notes that Vermont emissions have risen 16.3 percent since 2005, twice the national average, despite strenuous efforts at energy efficiency and solar subsidies. While emissions have decreased nationally, they’re up in Vermont. Why? Shellenberger says Vermont emissions increased in part because utilities couldn’t find enough zero-carbon replacement electricity to replace losses from Vermont Yankee. The Vernon nuclear power plant was denied a power contract by the Vermont Senate in 2011. It closed in 2014 due to expected regulatory upgrades and an inability to compete with the historically cost of natural gas.

Ignoring the cautionary tale in his own state, Sen. Bernie Sanders would deny new licenses to nuclear power plants, Shellenberger said. Likewise, Ocasio-Cortez says “the plan is to transition off nuclear.”

Despite opposition by Green New Dealers, efforts to keep the Seabrook, N.H., and Millstone, Conn., nuclear power plants open are underway. And that should be good news to fuel-agnostic Vermonters who care about carbon reduction, power reliability, and cost. Even without Vermont Yankee, nuclear power still makes 13 percent of Vermont’s electricity and helps Vermont reach its non-carbon energy goals, according to the 2019 Vermont Department of Public Service (PSD) annual report released Jan. 15.

The PSD report notes that during 2017, “13% of the megawatt-hours sold were supplied by nuclear units; which are not renewable but are considered to be non-carbon emitting resources that help meet Vermont’s GHG reduction goals.” The two main sources of this power are Seabrook and Millstone.

Vermonters bought 5.4 million megawatt-hours (MWH) of electricity in 2017, the most recent year on record. Nuclear power, at 13 percent of Vermont’s total load, delivered 702,000 MWH of low-carbon, reliable power.

Vermonters use less solar power than nuclear power, although exactly how much less is hard to determine from the 2019 report. The DPS report says subsidized (18.9 cents/kwh) “Tier II” solar generators of five MW or less produced about 117,000 MWH in 2017, about one-sixth of nuclear power’s contribution. However, Green Mountain Power – serving more than 80 percent of Vermonters – in a July, 2018 graph shows nuclear power provides 27 percent of all 2018 estimated power. Hydro power generates 61 percent. Solar provides 1.7 percent.

In all fairness, the actual amount of solar power sold to GMP customers is closer to 5.5 percent. To keep customer costs down, some solar power companies sell ‘renewable energy credits’ to out-of-state fossil fuel power companies eager to meet their state’s carbon-reduction standards. But that power can no longer be called “renewable.” It stopped being renewable when the RECs were sold.

But whatever the single-digit share of solar power, it still provides far less power than nuclear power, and at a higher cost to the customer. The exact kilowatt-hour price of Seabrook and Millstone power is shielded by regulators, but it is believed to be closely aligned to ‘market prices,’ which run about 3-5 cents per kilowatt-hour, or a quarter of Vermont’s Tier II solar subsidized price of 18.9 cents.

Vermonters want affordable low-carbon power. Based on the post-Vermont Yankee experience, the anti-nuclear Green New Deal appears to promise neither.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Image courtesy of United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission/Public domain

3 thoughts on “State Headliners: Anti-nuclear Green New Deal hasn’t learned lesson from Vermont

  1. Guy,

    Nuclear a Rational Approach to Reduce CO2

    As a more rational alternative, the world should build 200,000 MW of nuclear plants each year.
    A large part of the world’s fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions would be reduced.
    Nuclear typically requires only about one half acre of site area per MW, i.e., 200,000 MW would require about 100,000 acres. Solar, wind onshore, and wind offshore would require 84, 612 and 980 times as much area. See table 3A
    That would require far less grid work than hooking up all those wind and solar plants.

    No futuristic, expensive, energy-guzzling, short-lived batteries would be required.
    No microgrids would be required
    No islanding would be required

    Within 20 years, nuclear generation would be 20 x 200,000 x 8766 x 0.90 = 31,558 TWh/y

    Capital cost about $1.0 trillion/y, at $5000/kW. See Note.

    World generation was about 25,551 TWh/y in 2018.
    World generation likely would be about 40,965 kWh/y 20 years from now, at growth of 2.5%/y.
    The world would have 31558/40965 = 77% of all electricity from nuclear, just as France has today. See Appendix

    • And to add to your excellent comments Willem, we could re burn the spent rods from older
      Nuke plants in the new Thorium Nuke plants and get paid for taking away spent nuke material that no longer has to be stored. Free Fuel and Get Paid Money to pay down the new nuke plant… WIN WIN WIN… Bigley like being TRUMPed ON….

  2. Burned out sandernesta and his brain dead co hart occasional cortex have both been huffin the weed or something much stronger. Without Nuke generation there won’t be anywhere near enough to supply at current standards (without all their plugins for ele toys).
    There’s simply not enough unicorn farts or solar/bird killers to do it. Look at VT who now has a higher co2 footprint and cost of buying power since closing Vernon. We really need IQ and Competency Tests for these buffoonish congress critters.

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