Pairing zero-carbon nuclear energy with new technologies offers path to solving the climate crisis while maintaining energy security and grid reliability
In an address to energy and climate leaders today, Constellation CEO Joe Dominguez said nuclear energy will play a central role in accelerating the transition to a clean-energy economy by providing a foundation of secure, carbon-free energy to the grid and enabling new technologies, such as clean hydrogen to power difficult-to-decarbonize industries and direct air capture (DAC) systems, which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Nuclear energy’s unique ability to provide reliable, 24/7 clean energy also is critical to enhancing our nation’s energy security and grid reliability as global energy markets grapple with the devastating war in Ukraine and other challenges, he said.
“Concern in recent years about the future of nuclear energy has been replaced with a growing consensus among climate leaders and policymakers that maintaining and extending the life of our zero-carbon nuclear fleet is critical to solving the climate crisis and protecting our nation’s energy security,” Dominguez said. “We have begun to transition our nuclear sites into versatile clean energy centers that not only generate emissions-free power, but also bring together new technologies that help decarbonize the entire U.S. economy.”
The comments were part of a keynote address to participants in the Nuclear Energy Institute’s annual Nuclear Energy Assembly, which gathers climate leaders, energy industry professionals, policymakers and innovators to discuss key issues affecting the industry. The event was held at the Grand Hyatt Washington.
Constellation, the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free energy, launched as a standalone company in February with a nation-leading pledge to deliver 95 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. No other large power producer has made a pledge to reduce emissions to zero, without offsets, by that date. The company currently produces 10 percent of all clean energy on the grid in the U.S. with its zero-carbon fleet of nuclear, solar, wind and hydro power plants.
Constellation is pursuing multiple technologies to help customers lower emissions. The company received a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to test the benefits of using nuclear energy to produce hydrogen at its Nine Mile Nuclear Station on Oswego, N.Y. The company is installing a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer that will separate the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water, resulting in carbon-free hydrogen. Sustainable fuels and other products produced with hydrogen hold the key to decarbonizing industries and processes that defy easy climate solutions, such as long-haul shipping, agriculture, steelmaking and aviation, among others. Constellation is seeking to expand hydrogen production to other plants in its fleet as part of a broader DOE effort to develop the hydrogen economy, and is exploring ways to reduce emissions at its fossil plants by blending clean hydrogen with natural gas.
The company received a separate DOE grant in April to explore the potential for direct air capture technology at the company’s Byron nuclear plant in Northern Illinois. While nuclear plants produce no carbon emissions, direct air capture technology captures carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, a possible next-generation technology to combat the climate crisis. The technology will leverage the plant’s 495-foot-tall hyberbolic cooling towers. A special solution would be added to water flowing through the facility’s main condenser on the non-nuclear side of the plant. After traveling through the condenser, the water would travel out to the cooling towers, where carbon dioxide in the air will attach itself to the water solution and become captured and sequestered for later use, potentially in industrial processes that will have net zero emissions, ranging from creating sustainable aviation fuel to producing carbonation for the beverage industry.
Among its other climate initiatives, Constellation has partnered with Microsoft on the development of a 24/7/365 carbon-free energy matching technology that will help customers achieve true zero emissions, as opposed to the current practice of annualizing renewable energy certificates and credits. The product will match a customer’s energy needs with local, carbon-free energy sources on an hour-by-hour basis. As part of the agreement, Microsoft will create software that gives customers a transparent and independently verified view of their sustainability efforts.
Video of Dominguez’s remarks can be found here.
Constellation Energy Corporation (Nasdaq: CEG) is the nation’s largest producer of clean, carbon-free energy and a leading supplier of energy products and services to millions of homes, institutional customers, the public sector, community aggregations and businesses, including three fourths of Fortune 100 companies. A Fortune 200 company headquartered in Baltimore, our fleet of nuclear, hydro, wind and solar generation facilities powers more than 20 million homes, providing 10 percent of all carbon-free energy on the grid in the U.S. Our fleet is helping to accelerate the nation’s transition to clean energy with more than 32,400 megawatts of capacity and annual output that is nearly 90 percent carbon-free. We have set a goal to achieve 100 percent carbon-free power generation by 2040 by leveraging innovative technology and enhancing our diverse mix of hydro, wind and solar resources paired with the nation’s largest nuclear fleet. Follow Constellation on Twitter @ConstellationEG.