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MIT electricity expert Jesse Jenkins is out with a new paper that looks to quantify the different forces that are jointly pushing down electricity prices enough to make nuclear power increasingly uneconomic.

  • The paper looks at the trajectory of wholesale power prices in the PJM Interconnection from 2008–2016. The region covers all or part of 13 states — including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — that are together home to about a third of the U.S. nuclear fleet.

The big takeaway: The 72% decline in market prices for natural gas is by far the biggest culprit, with flat power consumption and the growth of wind power playing lesser roles (with wind only a factor in the western parts of PJM).

  • "In short, cheap natural gas may be killing the profitability of nuclear power producers in the PJM Interconnection, but stagnant electricity demand and expectations of future growth in wind generation going forward may be accomplices," Jenkins writes.
  • Why it matters: Nuclear is the largest source of carbon-free power. The research comes as a number of plants are facing retirement in coming years; several states are looking at how to keep them afloat; and, as noted above, the DOE is pushing for controversial new wholesale power market rules that would aid nukes in some markets.
  • More: A detailed summary of the research is available here.

Go deeper

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump has delivered a farewell speech and departed Washington for the last time on Air Force One, kicking off the day that will culminate with President-elect Joe Biden taking office.

What's next: The inaugural celebration for young Americans is being livestreamed, starting at 10am.

Updated 58 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump departs on final Air Force One flight

President Trump and his family took off on Air Force One at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning for the final time en route to Florida.

The big picture: Trump's final hours as president were punctuated by his decisions to snub his successor's inauguration and grant pardons to many of his allies who have been swept up in corruption scandals.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen said all the right things to reassure the markets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Treasury Secretary nominee and former Fed chair Janet Yellen's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday showed markets just what they can expect from the administration of President-elect Joe Biden: more of what they got under President Trump — at least for now.

What it means: Investors and big companies reaped the benefits of ultralow U.S. interest rates and low taxes for most of Trump's term as well as significant increases in government spending, even before the coronavirus pandemic.