Senate approves bill to add nuclear energy to Green Power Program

Today the Senate continued its efforts to add nuclear-generated power to the state’s clean-energy mix. By a bipartisan vote of 29-20, the Senate passed a measure sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown that would include carbon-free nuclear power on the list of alternative-energy sources included in the state’s voluntary Green Power Program.

“Nuclear energy is clean, carbon-free power,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “In 2013 nuclear energy produced 19 percent of our nation’s electricity and prevented 589 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, which is equal to the CO2 emitted by 113 million passenger cars.

“If our goal is to encourage the public to voluntarily choose power that is clean, nuclear power produces zero emissions and should be included in the mix.”

Under state law, electric utilities are required to offer their customers a voluntary option to buy green power. Currently, green power is defined as electricity generated from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, gas produced during the treatment of wastewater, and other specified sources.

Senate Bill 5091 would simply revise the definition of “qualified alternative energy resource” to include nuclear energy.

Green Power Program ParticipantsThe sale of voluntary green power has steadily increased since 2002. Brown pointed out that as the state shuts down the lone coal-fired plant in Washington and rejects “coal-by-wire,” nuclear power has the potential to become the hero of the green power program.

“In order to use intermitted power sources, such as wind and solar, utilities must purchase backing power to guarantee continuity of service. Nuclear energy can provide that clean, baseload power we need to make the use of other renewables possible.”

Prior to the bill’s passage, the Senate adopted an amendment offered by Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, which would require billing statements under this program for residential customers to distinguish between the percentage of electricity provided through qualified alternative energy resources as defined under current law and that provided by nuclear energy.

Brown, who has driven much of the discussion of nuclear power in the Senate this session, welcomed the change, and argued that separating out the portion of power generated by nuclear would have an educational component.

“Nuclear energy accounts for 63 percent of carbon-free electricity in the U.S. and people need to know that,” said Brown.

SB 5091 now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.