Lawmakers urge DEEP to consider Millstone ‘at risk’ of closure [The Day]

July 17, 2018

Article as it appeared in The Day

Waterford — Southeastern Connecticut lawmakers came to the defense of the Millstone Power Station Friday, responding sharply to state regulators’ recent assertion that they likely would not factor the nuclear plant’s environmental and grid benefits in zero-carbon electricity auctions until 2023.

“Neither Dominion Energy, nor the workers at Millstone, nor the ratepayers, nor Connecticut can afford the delayed implementation of the auction to 2023,” the 16 lawmakers wrote. “A premature retirement of Millstone will certainly result in higher electricity costs for Connecticut’s ratepayers, the loss of thousands of jobs, $30 million in local taxes, $1.5 billion to the state economy and the inability of the state to meet its clean air goals. The adverse economic and environmental ramifications cannot be overemphasized.”

The General Assembly passed a bipartisan bill signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy last year authorizing regulators to let nuclear plants compete in a zero-carbon auction against solar, wind and hydropower for fixed-price contracts with utilities. Regulators in February said Millstone could bid in the auction, which owner Dominion Energy had wanted for years, as nuclear plants like Millstone have faced pressure against cheaper natural gas in wholesale energy markets.

But state-hired consultants last year highlighted the plant’s expected profitability through 2035. The consultants argued Millstone was unlikely to close in the next few years due to capacity obligations to the New England grid already sold in advance. Dominion competitors and environmental advocates have argued threats about Millstone’s premature closure were empty.

In late June, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said Millstone could bid in this year’s zero-carbon auction, but the plant wouldn’t be considered at risk of closure until 2023. The at-risk designation would give Millstone’s bids a boost against competitors. Regulators will weigh factors beyond price — such as greenhouse gas avoidance, fuel diversity and reliability — only in cases where zero-carbon energy producers face potential shutdown due to economic duress.

Dominion argues DEEP is misguided in its apparent belief that Millstone is economically viable for another five years. The company says it may not bid in the auction unless DEEP changes course.

“Millstone is at risk now, and Dominion Energy must face critical business decisions regarding the future of Millstone, irrespective of the consequences those decisions might have on Connecticut or the New England region,” Dominion President and CEO Paul Koonce wrote last week.

Dominion has turned over to regulators proprietary financial data in its effort to prove that even if the plant alone is profitable, it is not sustainable or worthy of hundreds of millions of dollars of investment without the better contracts the zero-carbon auction could provide.

Lawmakers say DEEP’s decision to hold off on an at-risk designation until 2023 “unilaterally” changes their legislative intent to include nuclear in the zero-carbon auction in full consideration of Millstone’s benefits.

DEEP says it will review all feedback before releasing a final request for proposals for zero-carbon power by July 31. Comments can be sent to DEEP.EnergyBureau@ct.gov by Friday, July 20.

Signing on:

Sixteen General Assembly members signed a letter Friday calling on state regulators to consider Millstone Power Station “at risk” of closure: Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford; Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme; Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard; Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme; Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton; Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton; Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London; Rep. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich; Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville; Rep. Linda Orange, D-Colchester; Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-Colchester; Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Canterbury; Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme; Rep. Kevin Skulczyck, R-Griswold; Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague; Rep. De La Cruz, D-Groton.

The at-risk designation would give Millstone’s bids a boost in an upcoming zero-carbon electricity auction.