Constellation, ComEd ink deal for hourly matching with nuclear power

September 19, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Byron nuclear power plant. (Photo: Constellation Energy)

Constellation Energy has announced an agreement with Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), Illinois’s largest electric utility, to power the latter’s 54 offices and metered facilities with locally produced nuclear energy, 24/7.

The agreement, Constellation said in its September 14 announcement, means that ComEd will become the nation’s first investor-owned utility “to power its facilities with 100 percent clean energy produced at the same time and place it is consumed.” (Constellation owns and operates six nuclear plants in Illinois: the two-unit Braidwood, Byron, Dresden, LaSalle, and Quad Cities facilities and the single-unit Clinton plant.)

A similar agreement between Constellation and Microsoft was reached in June to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of one of the software giant’s Virginia data centers. That deal called for the facility to receive up to 35 percent in what Constellation termed “environmental attributes” from nuclear, complementing recent Microsoft wind and solar purchases and moving the company close to its goal of running the center with 100 percent carbon-free electricity around the clock.

Under the new agreement, ComEd’s hourly carbon-free energy purchase will match its anticipated electricity use of about 65,000 megawatt-hours, which includes its corporate and regional headquarters, reporting centers, business offices, training and special-use facilities, and substations.

Hourly matching: According to Constellation’s announcement, “hourly matching represents an evolution in the clean energy transition. Today, most companies pursuing net-zero goals purchase annual renewable energy certificates (RECs), which represent units of clean energy produced by a solar or wind facility located somewhere in the U.S. during a given year. For example, a manufacturer in Virginia could buy enough RECs in April in Iowa to match its annual energy use and then claim its operations in August run on clean energy. In reality, those annualized RECs represent energy that was produced halfway across the country at a different time of day and year. Meanwhile, the manufacturer received most of its energy from a fossil plant located nearby.”

Signers’ language: “Matching clean energy production to the time and place a customer uses it is the only way we will truly achieve zero-carbon emissions across our economy,” said Joe Dominguez, president and chief executive officer of Constellation. “Following this summer of record-shattering weather, it’s clear that hourly matching needs to become the standard within our industry for the U.S. to have any reasonable shot at reaching its 2050 climate goals and preventing the worst effects of climate change. Our agreements with ComEd and Microsoft show that American businesses want a better approach to carbon accounting, and that nuclear energy is key to delivering it.”

Gil Quiniones, ComEd CEO, added that his company is committed to helping Illinois achieve its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050 “by lowering carbon emissions at our own facilities in every hour of every day,” and that “Constellation’s 100 percent hourly matching carbon-free energy solution provides an important tool to address the challenges of climate change.”

Family reunion: Prior to last year, both Constellation and ComEd were subsidiaries of Exelon Corporation. In February 2021, Exelon announced its intention to separate Constellation (then Exelon Generation) from its group of six regulated electric and gas utilities. Completion of the deal was announced on February 2, 2022, launching Constellation as its own company.

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