Nuclear Plants Make New York a Global Model for Addressing Climate Change

On September 23, New York will host the United Nations Climate Summit, one of the foremost events to address reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the quality of life for billions of people. As New York offers a showcase for how to have a vibrant economy and low carbon emissions, it is especially fitting the conference is here.

In fact, according to recently released information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New York has the country's lowest per capita carbon emissions. While New Yorkers produce 8 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita annually, the national average is more than 150 percent higher -- and in some states 300 percent higher!

Two main factors have fueled New York's success in curbing per capita carbon emissions: the widespread use of public transportation keeps cars off the road, and our electricity generation portfolio is 57 percent non-carbon emitting. With 30 percent of the state's electricity coming from nuclear, 23 percent hydro, and four percent wind, solar and other renewables, New York's generation mix is comparatively light on the burning of fossil fuels. The air pollutants and greenhouse gases that are prevented by New York's nuclear fleet amount to tens of thousands of tons annually.

New York State's impressive carbon numbers are challenged by ever-increasing demands for electricity. To continue keeping our carbon emissions under control, the state will need to look toward increased generation by non-carbon sources, efficiency measures, and enhanced transmission infrastructure.

What good is replacing gas-powered cars with electric ones if the state is burning more coal to recharge their batteries? Over a period of time renewables and efficiency investments will be a positive, but the state's nuclear facilities must be maintained as a primary source of non-carbon power. New York would be taking a big step backwards if any of its nuclear plants close.

The United Nations Climate Summit provides a unique opportunity to highlight the many benefits of nuclear energy at a time when some domestic reactors face economic and regulatory headwinds. I encourage worldwide attendees to consider the vital importance of New York's nuclear plants, starting with nearby Indian Point, which supplies more than 10 percent of the state's power, and whose continuous operation has been critical to improving New York City's once abysmal air quality.

In addition to accounting for nearly one-third of New York's electricity, nuclear is the most reliable and efficient form of generation in the state. Our state's nuclear energy facilities operated at a very high average capacity factor of 92.2 percent for the three years prior to 2013. Such reliability is critical as we begin to experience the more frequent extreme weather events and colder winters that are the product of the climate change that we are trying to prevent.

As the rest of the world seeks to catch up with New York's continued leadership in reducing per capita carbon emissions, we must keep our nuclear plants and consider new facilities. The state's existing nuclear fleet is a critical asset to meet future carbon-reduction goals, while ensuring that in-state energy demand is met economically.

Nuclear power is the critical bridge to a future while more and more renewable sources of power generation are being developed. Along with our hydro and renewable power, nuclear facilities position New York State to literally be a shining example to the world how one region aggressively tackles climate change.

Arthur "Jerry" Kremer is chair of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, a diverse coalition of more than 150 New York business organizations, labor unions, independent energy experts, and community and environmental leaders. Entergy, the owner of Indian Point and James A. Fitzpatrick nuclear generating facilities, is a member of New York AREA.