ATLANTIC CITY — Public Service Enterprise Group will apply to the state for ratepayer subsidies for all three of its Salem County nuclear plants, the last ones operating in the state, a representative said Wednesday.
Joseph F. Accardo Jr., deputy general counsel and chief regulatory officer for PSEG, said the company’s detailed financial records will show that Hope Creek, Salem 1 and Salem 2 nuclear power plants will close within three years without the subsidies. They are licensed through 2036, 2040 and 2046, respectively, according to the company.
Accardo spoke at a Board of Public Utilities hearing at Stockton University on how the BPU should create a subsidy program and evaluate applicants.
The Zero Emissions Credit (ZEC) program is required by a law that passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in May. It is designed to keep nuclear plants, which do not emit greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere — and now produce about 30 percent of the electricity generated in the state — as a substantial part of New Jersey’s energy mix.
But Ratepayer Counsel Stefanie Brand said the board must consider a variety of factors in deciding if a plant qualifies for the credits, including the affect on ratepayers.
“The board should also assess whether the .4-cents-per-kilowatt-hour surcharge would result in just and reasonable rates,” said Brand. “Under settled New Jersey law, utility ratepayers have the right to utility rates that are not excessive.”
She said if the board finds that the subsidy amount, which was set by the law, is more than the amount needed to keep the plants open, “then the .4-cent rate is not just and reasonable, and therefore the board should reject it.”
A household that uses about 1,000 kWh per month would pay an additional $4 a month — or about $48 a year — to keep nuclear plants operating, according to Brand.
Every ratepayer, residential and commercial, would pay it no matter where they are located.
PSEG spokesman Mike Jennings, however, said company data show a typical residential customer in New Jersey use about 600 kWh a month, which would result in an extra payment of $31 a year.
He said PSEG could potentially receive $280 million a year from ratepayers for all three plants, because the legislation caps the total payments at that yearly amount.
The board also must assess the impact that closure of a nuclear unit would have on the state’s air quality.
The meeting was presided over by Bethany Rocque-Romaine, of the BPU counsel’s office, with BPU staff members in attendance. No BPU commissioners were there. The commissioners will rely on a written record of the comments, Rocque-Romaine said.
Electrical and pipefitters union representatives spoke in favor of subsidizing the plants, stressing the need to protect the 1,600 jobs at the Salem County plants and thousands more dependent on their continued operation.
Consumers, on the other hand, told the board they already pay some of the highest electric rates in the nation and don’t believe the subsidies are needed.
AARP New Jersey Director of Advocacy Evelyn Liebman called the subsidy a “nuclear tax.”
“Older adults are especially vulnerable to high utility prices, in part because they spend a far greater proportion of their income on home energy costs,” said Liebman. “Studies also show older people limit or do without food, medical services and prescription medicine to pay for high energy bills.”
“This is not the only rate increase we are going to have,” said AARP member Suzanne Pelkaus, of Marmora in Upper Township. She cited Atlantic Electric’s pending application for a rate hike to pay for infrastructure improvements. There are also pending subsidies for solar and wind power development that will also be added to consumer bills.