Brattle Group finds PA’s nuclear plants have significant impacts on electricity costs and emissions

Water vapor being released at Beaver Valley Nuclear Station in Shippingport, PA
Water vapor being released at Beaver Valley Nuclear Station in Shippingport, PA |  FirstEnergy Corp.

Just over a week ago, the Brattle Group released a comprehensive study examining the value of Pennsylvania’s fleet of nuclear power plants to the state’s economy.  If you’ve been following the electric generation industry, you’re probably aware that the states of Illinois and New York have both recently passed measures to help protect their respective nuclear generation from premature closure due to short-term market conditions. This study provides some insight into how critical the nuclear fleet is to Pennsylvania’s electricity generation industry.

The study found that nuclear plants in Pennsylvania:

  • Account for 15,900 in-state full-time jobs
  • Keep Pennsylvania consumers from paying $788 million more annually, and $6.6 billion more over the next ten years for their electricity (This translates to an increase of about $52 a year for the typical residential ratepayer, with greater increases for commercial and industrial customers)
  • Are responsible for $69 million in net state tax revenues annually
  • Contribute approximately $2 billion to the state gross domestic product

The study also cites the role the nuclear power plays on keeping pollutant emissions low. Without the nuclear fleet, they estimate that 37 million tons more C02 would be emitted per year and particulate matter emissions would jump 50% higher. In addition, some of the emission increases would occur in counties already designated as non-attainment status for various pollutants, resulting in additional regulatory restrictions in these areas. In economic terms, avoiding these pollutant increases is valued at nearly $2 billion per year.

While the report finds most consumers would pay substantially more for electricity, some groups could benefit from nuclear plant closures.  Because renewable generators are already operating at nearly 100% capacity and each nuclear plant has a high energy output, there would be little room renewable generation to fill the gap in the short-term.  Under a scenario in which all of Pennsylvania’s nuclear fleet were to retire quickly, Pennsylvania would rely heavily on filling electricity needs by importing the increased generation of natural gas and coal-fired generation from other states – resulting in Pennsylvania switching from being a net exporter of electricity to a net importer.

The report is particularly timely as at least one nuclear plant in Pennsylvania is facing premature retirement due to economic hardships resulting from historically low natural gas prices and the lack of any mechanism to place a value on carbon-free nuclear generation under current policies.

The problem with nuclear power plants shutting down is you cannot reactivate them later if we need them.  Once a plant is decommissioned, it can’t come back online.  The only way to get nuclear power back on the grid later would be to build new plants, and while other countries like China are doing that, it has become very, very expensive in the United States.

Full Report:  Pennsylvania Nuclear Power Plants’ Contribution to the State Economy.pdf

Related news:

Op-Ed: Pennsylvania needs nuclear power – Post-Gazette

FirstEnergy’s 6 power plants in Pa. up for sale – PowerSource

Pa. utility asks state for help to keep coal and nuclear plants going – Newsworks

New Report Makes The Case For Why We Shouldn’t Let Nuclear Plants Shut Down – The Daily Caller

Senators Told They Must Fund Nuke Plant Upgrades – Courthouse News

Event: What’s Next for PA DEP?  A Conversation with Secretary Patrick McDonnell

Thursday, December 1st
1:00pm – 1:30pm Registration and Networking
1:30pm – 2:30pm Presentation and Q&A
First Floor Auditorium, 11 Stanwix Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222

Join us for a conversation with the Acting Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection, Patrick McDonnell. McDonnell has been serving as Acting Secretary since May, and was nominated to fill the position permanently by Gov. Tom Wolf in September.

McDonnell has worked for the DEP for the last 13 years, and will share his thoughts about his priorities for the Department, as well as take questions and comment on issues that the Department works on, such as permitting, regulatory coordination, energy efficiency, and energy production in Pennsylvania.

Registration is required; please RSVP using the link below by Monday, Nov. 28th.


About Patrick McDonnell:

Prior to his appointment as Acting Secretary, Patrick McDonnell was most recently the director of policy for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, where he oversaw the agency’s regulation and policy development processes. In addition, Mr. McDonnell ran the State Energy Office and was charged with coordination of renewable energy and energy efficiency issues.

Prior to returning to DEP, Mr. McDonnell was executive policy manager for former Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, focusing on electric, natural gas and water issues as well as cybersecurity and the impact of environmental regulation on energy markets.

Previously, Mr. McDonnell spent 13 years with DEP in a variety of roles. As deputy secretary for administration, he managed the budget, human resources, information technology and oversaw the facilities management functions of the agency. He also previously served as policy director and as an assistant to the special deputy secretary. He began his career at DEP working in the State Energy Office on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green building projects.

Mr. McDonnell received his Master’s degree in Political Science from Lehigh University and his Bachelor’s Degree in Politics from DeSales University.



Policy Watch: U.S. Senate is pushing forward the stalled Energy Reform Package

After being bogged down by funding amendments for Flint, MI and other issues, the “Energy Policy Modernization Act” has been resurrected and is expected to be brought up for a vote before the U.S. Senate today (Tuesday).  This bill represents the first broad legislative attempt to address growing issues for the nation’s energy sector since 2007.   It has generally seen bipartisan support as it has made its way through committees since originally introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) last year.

Currently at 424 printed pages, there’s a lot of ground covered in this package.  In addition to updating language and definitions around various energy resources, the bill requires that DOE conduct new studies to answer questions about grid reliability, lays out support for workforce training programs (including those for displaced coal workers), and would require DOE to issue final determinations on LNG terminal applications within 45 days (some LNG terminal applications have been pending for more than 4 years).

Hoping to improve the Federal government’s role in spurring innovation, it is also worth noting that the bill attempts to make it easier for small businesses to access the National Labs, and increases the authorizations for the Office of Science in the U.S. Department of Energy, ARPA-E, and the Army Corp of Engineers.

Access a current copy of the bill here.  Read more about the anticipated amendments under consideration for this bill here.

4/20/2016 UPDATE:  Senate has passed this bill, which must now be reconciled with the House version.  Read more


RSVP: 2016 Energy Alliance Annual Meeting – Apr 25

Monday, April 25th 2016
8:30am – 10:30am
Lobby Auditorium, 11 Stanwix Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222

8:30 – 9:00am    Breakfast, Networking, & Registration
9:00 – 9:30am    2016 Energy Alliance programs and opportunities
9:30 – 10:30am   Keynote Speaker with Q&A


Keynote Speaker:  PUC Commissioner Robert F. Powelson

Commissioner PowelsonWe are pleased to welcome Pennsylvania Utilities Commissioner Powelson as our keynote for this year’s Energy Alliance Annual Meeting.  The PUC is responsible for oversight of public utility and services operations in the commonwealth, including water, energy, and transportation.

Commissioner Powelson will share his perspective and answer questions about the impacts of major new policies on Pennsylvania, such as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the start of Phase III of Act 129 (PA’s electricity energy efficiency and conservation program), and other significant energy-related issues before the PUC today.


Commissioner Powelson was first appointed to the PUC by Gov. Rendell in 2008, then later appointed to serve as PUC Chairman by Gov. Corbett from 2011 through 2015. Under Powelson’s leadership, Pennsylvania ratepayers have had an active voice on issues such as ratemaking, utility infrastructure replacement, broadband development, and expanded use of natural gas throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  On March 8, 2011, Governor Corbett invited Powelson to serve as a member of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. The Advisory Commission reviewed the Commonwealth’s existing statutes, regulations and policies and provided recommendations to ensure that Pennsylvania maximizes the opportunity that Marcellus Shale presents in the most responsible manner possible.

Commissioner Powelson also is a voting member of the National Regulatory Research Institute (NRRI). In 2012, he was appointed to serve on the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Advisory Council and was recently re-appointed to serve another term, which expires August 2018. Previous to his tenure with the PUC, Powelson served as the President of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry and was was the Director of Government Relations for the Delaware County Chamber.


Please RSVP by Wednesday, April 20th.
Light breakfast will be served.    Capacity for this event is limited; RSVPs will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Feb 17th W&J brings you Grid Academy, “The Economics of the Power Industry”

The W&J Center for Energy Policy and Management Brings YouGA-transparent

Session III

Managing Uncertainty:  The Economics of the Power Industry 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 @ 7:00 pm
Yost Auditorium, Burnett Center, Washington & Jefferson College

In Session III, our energy experts will examine the issues that must be resolved to arrive at a new business model for the generation and delivery of electricity. The ultimate question is who is going to pay for the modern grid that we need?  How do we set up the right incentives for those investments?  Do we need to create new regulatory frameworks?

Featured Panelists

Dianne Anderson
Former Executive Director , Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation, Case Western Reserve University

Maria Hanley
Energy Industry Analyst in the Office of Electric Reliability, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Gregory F. Reed, Ph.D.
Director of Center for Energy and of the Electric Power Initiative; Professor at Swanson School of Engineering, U. of Pittsburgh

The lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is requested.  Click Here to Register Today!

PA, WV, and OH CLE credit is available for attorneys; contact the Washington County Bar Association at or 724-225-6710 for CLE cost and information.  W&J will provide certificates of completion of Professional Development Hours for applicable registrants.

The prototype Grid Academy program was developed as a partnership between the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Science and Engineering Ambassadors Program of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. CEPM thanks both the Allegheny Conference and the Ambassadors Program for their generosity in allowing a modified version of the Grid Academy to be presented at W&J.