The fight for green power has to go nuclear

The state Assembly is irate over the electric-rate hike that’s set to kick in April 1, because the surcharge will fund subsidies to four Upstate nuclear plants. But the lawmakers only have themselves to blame, for going along with New York’s “50 by 30” clean-energy plan.

That plan — which the Assembly endorsed — requires the state Public Service Commission to have half the state’s electricity generated by non-carbon-emitting sources by 2030.

And that’s near-impossible to do without nuclear plants, because solar and wind power just can’t (remotely) do the job by themselves.

Yet two of these plants were already set to close — with the others not far behind — because falling electricity prices had made them money-losers.

So the PSC has agreed to pay Exelon, the firm that runs the plants, nearly $1 billion over the next two years to keep the nuke plants running — with the money coming from a fee tacked on to electric bills statewide.

Groups like NYPIRG are funding a high-profile attack on the surcharge — plainly, because they hate nuclear power. But they have no practical alternative to reaching the state’s green goals, either.

That doesn’t mean the critics are entirely wrong: The PSC assumes the subsidies will drop after the first two years of the 12-year arrangement, because it thinks electric rates will start rising again, and the deal automatically reduces the payments if the plants become profitable again.

If rates instead fall (as they have for a decade, thanks to the fracking revolution), the subsidy would continue at the same rate.

That said, the PSC is essentially a group of technocrats doing their best to carry out lawmakers’ orders. It’s not the wonks’ fault that legislators didn’t realize they were promoting nuclear power when they signed on to the states’ “green” power plan.

Right now, the anti-nuke crowd is pushing the state Senate to join the Assembly in passing a bill to stop the PSC’s nuke-subsidy plan. But the only way that would make sense is if the bill also kills the overall “50 by 30” law.

Either that, or order the PSC to “go green” exclusively with wind and solar power — and watch New York electric bills really skyrocket.