John Rowe, the highly regarded CEO of Exelon, the largest nuclear operator in the US, presented a lecture on March 8th effectively declaring the end of the nuclear renaissance fad prominent in the U.S. over the last decade. Rowe says that the radically transformed natural gas outlook for the U.S. has also destroyed the economic prospects for new clean coal facilities, wind and solar. Further he anticipates that when combined with tougher rules around conventional air pollutants, particularly acid gases, toxic metals, and particulates, a large amount of unscrubbed coal generation will shut down in the foreseeable future.
Rowe’s analysis focuses on the implications of much cheaper and less volatile natural gas supplies. As technology for natural gas utilization, such as fuel cells, continues to progress, the transformational potential of the gas sector for the North American economy appears to be even more significant. Now is the wrong time for electric utilities to roll the dice on big capital projects.