|Anya Litvak opines that either the Ohio-based company will shut down the 1,800-megawatt plant, two decades ahead of schedule, or it will sell it to another operator. The latter option is a nonstarter unless something, aka someone, aka legislators in Pennsylvania and Ohio, intervenes to equalize nuclear energy with gas.|
The Beaver County nuclear plant and two others in Ohio share the same chopping block as about a dozen fossil fuel plants in FirstEnergy portfolio across several states where electricity generation is not directly supported by ratepayers.
But getting legislation that would recognize nuclear energy lack of carbon emissions is FirstEnergy top priority, according to CEO Chuck Jones, even though FirstEnergy will not stick around to operate the plants either way, as a business decision.
In Ohio, it will be legislation seeking to create a program where customers would pay a surcharge to fund zero-emission credits given to nuclear plants. A similar mechanism supports the purchase of renewable energy in Pennsylvania and in Ohio, although the Ohio program had been frozen for the past two years and some in the state Legislature are attempting to neuter its mandates by making them penalty-free goals instead.
In Pennsylvania, Exelon is taking the lead. The Chicago-based operator of three of the state five nuclear power stations has been emboldened by recent victories in Illinois and New York, where it credited the 11th-hour approval of zero-emission credits with saving several plants from early retirement.
The primary reason why nuclear is in trouble is cheap, plentiful natural gas. Nuclear plants does not power up or down with demand. They are steady, reliable workhorses, running when it is economical as well as when it is not, and providing a backbone to the electric grid. In the U.S., about 20% of electricity comes from nuclear power. In Pennsylvania, which ranks second in nuclear power production in the nation, it is closer to 35%.
Read on ...