America’s largest nuclear utility, Exelon, says it is supporting an elimination of the net metering cap in Massachusetts. That position would seem to imply support for rooftop solar power in the state, a position seemingly at odds with Exelon’s ownership of 2,000 Megawatts of natural gas generation in Massachusetts it acquired when it bought Constellation Energy last year.
This is, after all, the same Exelon that said in April, “This year, it’s the wind industry. Next year, it will be the solar industry,” said Joseph Dominguez, Exelon’s Sr. VP of Policy and Regulatory Affairs. “We’re just handling these subsidies piecemeal instead of looking at the problem more holistically.”
And no, Dominguez wasn’t talking about Exelon supporting wind this year, and solar next. He was talking about Exelon’s efforts to kill all government–federal and state–support for renewable energy.
Sounds like a great example of adversaries finding common ground for the greater good, right? Perhaps that’s why sources tell me Exelon is asking the legislature to gut the bill and pass only the elimination of the net metering cap. Could this be a case of a big utility reading the writing on the wall and making a bid to escape with the shirt on its back? Or has Exelon actually had a change of heart?
One of two things has happened. Exelon has either flip-flopped on net metering, or it is lying to legislators when it tells them it supports extending net metering.
According to David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, “The public policy position of Exelon is to oppose subsidies for wind and solar while the company itself purports to be this super-green company and also wants more subsidies for nuclear.” Crane sums up his take with the understatement of the year: “That’s just hypocritical.”
When I attempted to contact Exelon for a comment on H.4185 or my take in this article, I was told that a “subject matter expert” was on a plane and would get back to me as soon as possible. One week later, I’m still waiting for their response. But maybe Exelon’s silence speaks more on this subject than sound bytes ever could.
The lesson of the story is this: whenever Exelon starts talking about renewable energy, what the company really means is that they want less of it and more nuclear power–and more of both your tax and ratepayer dollars to pay for it.
UPDATE: Yesterday CERES released a new report ranking the renewable energy production and energy efficiency programs of the 32 largest electric utility holding companies on their use of renewable energy and effectiveness of their energy efficiency programs.
Not surprisingly, Exelon came out near the bottom, ranking number 22 for renewable energy and 21 for energy efficiency. Less than three percent of Exelon’s electricity sales came from renewable energy sources. Similarly, the company’s cumulative annual energy efficiency savings also came to less than three percent of electricity sales.
At least Exelon came out better than the nation’s second-largest nuclear utility, Entergy, which was at the very bottom of energy efficiency rankings, with energy efficiency programs accounting for a paltry 0.13% of sales. As for renewables, they accounted for only 0.64% of the utility’s sales.
At the very bottom of the renewables rankings? The only two private utilities building new reactors in the U.S.: South Carolina’s SCANA, with no renewables sales whatsoever, and Southern Company, whose renewables sales accounted for 0.05% of its overall sales.
Meanwhile, Southern Company continues to march against the tide of history. On Wednesday, Southern CEO Tom Fanning said the utility may announce a new nuclear reactor construction project before the end of the year. Although it has received considerable attention, Fanning’s statement was less than emphatic. He made the statement as a side comment at a Washington, DC meeting, saying only that he “would love to announce” a new reactor project. Given the cost overruns and schedule delays at the Vogtle reactors Southern is now building in Georgia, this sounds more like wishful thinking on his part.
July 25, 2014
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