Pennsylvania and the nation need diverse energy resources to ensure our national security and global competitiveness and to maintain our leadership role around the world. As a former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. secretary of homeland security, I have come to appreciate that only an electric grid built on diverse and stable sources of energy can withstand evolving threats — from polar vortexes, terrorist acts or cyber attacks — and make sure the lights stay on.
State officials are responsible for ensuring fuel diversity while complying with federal and state environmental standards. This is best accomplished by defining goals and designing competitive markets that benefit the health and welfare of all citizens.
For example, as governor, I led the effort in the mid-1990s, with bipartisan support in the General Assembly, to restructure Pennsylvania’s energy market. This has led to millions of dollars in savings for taxpayers and built a strong foundation to accomplish other things — such as meeting federal targets for clean energy, energy resiliency and air pollution.
One tool that governors and legislators have employed in more than 30 states is “portfolio standards” to require energy diversity. After I left office, the Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell established the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) to ensure clean-energy development and attract investment under a competitive structure, which complemented the energy-market restructuring.
Although the AEPS casts a wide net, the one resource it missed is nuclear power.
Nuclear is the nation’s and the commonwealth’s most abundant source of clean energy. Nuclear plants emit no greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. They provide “baseload” power, which means they reliably run 24/7 — and for 18 months to 24 months without refueling. Nuclear is a critical component of a resilient electricity grid, which is essential to national security. Our security depends on energy sources that are stable and diverse to consistently meet demands from critical customers such as military bases and government facilities.