FirstEnergy DOE emergency appeal another ruse for “bailout” say opponents

March 30, 2018 GMT

FirstEnergy DOE emergency appeal another ruse for “bailout” say opponents

CLEVELAND --A growing chorus of opponents are condemning the maneuver by FirstEnergy Solutions Thursday to convince the U.S. Department of Energy that an electrical supply emergency exists in Ohio and 12 other states.

The emergency, wrote the power plant company’s parent FirstEnergy Corp. in a formal application to the DOE, is that the regional high-voltage power grid could become unstable if the company shuts down its three nuclear power plants over the next three years, as it threatened Wednesday.

FirstEnergy is asking the DOE to declare that an official emergency exists and order grid manager PJM Interconnection to, in effect,  dispatch the company’s power ahead of the cheaper electricity generated by wind turbine farms and a growing fleet of gas turbine plants built by entrepreneurs.

PJM’s long-time policy is to favor the lowest priced power available to maintain a stable grid. More expensive power is chosen as needed.

“PJM has done little to prevent this emergency despite the numerous signs for many years that the emergency was coming,” the company wrote in its DOE emergency application. “Nuclear and coal-fired generators in PJM have been closing at a rapid rate —putting PJM’s system resiliency at risk—and many more closures have been announced.”

Reaction so far from the DOE is that it will evaluate the claim.

Others are not so calm.  Here is a sampling of immediate reaction:

From NRG Energy, a competitive power company which owns coal and nuclear power plants, including the Avon Lake coal-fired plant, as well as renewable energy projects: “The only crisis here is one affecting FirstEnergy’s shareholders, and Ohio ratepayers should not be asked to bail out FE just because it can’t figure out how to profitably operate its power plants,” said David Gaier, spokesman. “The established and proven competitive energy markets are the only way to ensure both reliability as well as just and reasonable energy prices for consumers. These actions could destroy them.“From the American Petroleum Institute:  “FirstEnergy needs to stop misleading the public and government officials about the status of its power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania,” said API Market Development Group Director Todd Snitchler (and former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.) “FirstEnergy’s latest attempt to spread a false narrative surrounding the reliability of the electric grid is nothing more than a ruse that will force Main Street consumers to pay higher prices.’From Earthjustice, a Philadelphia law firm that has represented the Sierra Club in its opposition to FirstEnergy’s earlier plans to raise customer rates in Ohio and direct the extra money to the power plants: “FirstEnergy wants to hold utility customers hostage and force them to subsidize its bad business decisions by propping up aging and inefficient coal and nuclear units,” said attorney Kim Smaczniak. “This request by FirstEnergy is a desperate attempt to get special treatment from [DOE] Secretary [Rick] Perry, and seeks to end run FERC’s unanimous rejection of almost the same bailout proposal [from coal companies] less than three months ago.“From the national business group Advanced Energy Economy:  FirstEnergy’s request attempts to short-circuit PJM’s well-established process for analyzing the reliability impacts of generation retirements, and ignores FERC’s ruling earlier this year finding that no emergency exists that would justify providing special treatment to coal and nuclear power plants in our competitive electricity markets. We fully expect Secretary Perry to reject this application,” said  Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president of policy.From the Natural Resources Defense Council: “First Energy is desperate to pad its bottom line at the expense of its customers. The region is awash in cleaner and cheaper resources, and First Energy can’t compete in the market,” said attorney John Moore. “This move is stunning given that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and the state of Ohio have all rejected these bailouts.“From the national offices of the Sierra Club: “After making foolish investments in expensive and dangerous coal and nuclear plants, FirstEnergy Solutions is again demanding that electricity customers bail them out through this outrageously illegal proposal,” said Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Ratepayers and regulators have already rejected multiple attempts by the company to bail out these coal and nuclear plants that can no longer compete in the marketplace.  If the Trump Administration bows to FirstEnergy and moves forward with this bailout attempt, Sierra Club fully intends to challenge and defeat the administration in court.”