January 9, 2018

Cold snap produces dueling nuke positions

Flickr Creative Commons | David Lewis
Flickr Creative Commons | David Lewis
The Hartford area saw temperatures dip below 0 degrees on Sunday. The recent cold snap has made its way into Connecticut's nuclear plant debate.

Both sides of a long-running debate over the future of nuclear power in Connecticut are using a recent bout of bone-chilling temperatures to make their case to regulators weighing whether to hold a state-led selection of power generators that would allow Millstone Power Station to compete for long-term supply contracts.

Nearly 60 lawmakers signed a letter sent to state energy regulators on Monday, urging them to use newly granted authority to solicit bids from Millstone Power Station for the procurement, which would be akin to those previously run by the state to spur the development of mainly solar and wind resources.

The mix of mostly Republican and eastern Connecticut senators and representatives pointed to a spike in natural gas prices and the need to run dirtier oil plants because of recent frigid weather.

"Where would Connecticut be if Millstone was not here over the past two weeks?" the letter asked.

United Illuminating sees the situation differently.

The Orange-based utility, part of Avangrid, argued in a letter Monday to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that the cold weather was a major profit booster for the nuclear plant.

"For the period January 1 – January 8, 2018, if Millstone has sold its output into the ISO New England day-ahead energy market, it has earned over $68 million," UI wrote.

Dominion has said that low natural gas prices are threatening the future of Millstone's economic viability, and has pointed to nuke closures around the country as evidence of that threat.

But following a review of Millstone ordered by Gov. Dannel Malloy, PURA and DEEP found in a preliminary report last month that Millstone would be profitable for years to come, a conclusion against which Dominion has pushed back.

DEEP and PURA expect to issue a final report on the matter by early next month.

Some see the Millstone effort as an attempt to sell a large amount of its output into a less competitive market, thereby earning higher profits. They argue that if the plant is actually in financial trouble, the entire New England region should pay to assist it, not just one state.

While the Connecticut debate plays out, an attempt by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize certain nuke and coal plants was rejected Monday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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