April 2, 2018 Read More →

Grid Operator to U.S. Energy Department: ‘There Is No Emergency’

Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Power grid manager PJM Interconnection on Friday urged the U.S. Department of Energy not to take extraordinary action ordering subsidies to keep uncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants operating.

FirstEnergy’s power plant subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), asked the DOE for the action on Thursday morning, about 18 hours after informing PJM and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it would close its three nuclear power plants within three years.

The Akron-based company relied on a rarely used clause in the Federal Power Act authorizing the DOE to take extraordinary action to keep power plants running — and the grid stable — during extreme emergencies such as an act of war.

PJM Interconnection is the federally approved manager of the high-voltage electric grid and wholesale power markets in Ohio, 12 other states and Washington, D.C.

“PJM can state without reservation there is no immediate threat to system reliability,” wrote Vincent Duane, senior vice president and general counsel.  “Indeed, the FES units that announced their expected retirement earlier this week, by their own disclosures, will remain operational in most cases until through May 2021.”

In the letter to Energy Secretary Perry, Duane wrote that future power plant closings do not constitute the kind of emergency that the framers of the Federal Power Act had in mind.

And he noted that PJM will do a formal analysis of the grid impact of the planned closings of the FirstEnergy reactors in the next 30 days, using an analytical procedure approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

If the analysis determines that the shutdowns would destabilize the grid, PJM can offer FirstEnergy Solutions “full cost of service compensation” to keep the plants open, Duane wrote, at least until new transmission lines are built to deliver power to the region from elsewhere.

If the analysis shows the closings would in fact weaken the grid as FirstEnergy Solutions argues, PJM could ultimately join with the company’s request, the letter states.

“PJM therefore respectfully requests that the Secretary allow PJM’s FERC-accepted process to unfold in an orderly manner and refrain from taking unnecessary, extraordinary and precedential immediate action as sought by FES,” the letter concludes.

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