A decision by Dominion Resources Inc. to miss a deadline to notify the ISO New England if it intends to retire its Millstone nuclear power plant has competitors warning that the Connecticut facility now is committed through May 2022 to supply power to the region's capacity market.
The significance of the absence of Millstone's name from list of planned retirements due March 24 was not lost on competitors opposed to state legislation to offer Dominion a power supply contract through 2029 for 8.3 million MWh of electricity to help shore up the finances of the 2,100-MW plant in Waterford, Conn.
"The deadline has come and gone but Millstone made absolutely no indication that the plant has any intention of closing," said Matt Fossen, a spokesman of the Stop the Millstone Payout coalition, in a statement. The group consists of Calpine Corp., Dynegy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and the Electric Power Supply Association and was formed solely to oppose Senate Bill 106, which is aimed at offering a long-term contract for roughly half of Millstone's generation in a bid to keep the plant from closing.
Fossen said this "is yet another sign of [Dominion's] double-speak," adding that the company is "trying to convince lawmakers that Millstone needs a huge subsidy — when every shred of evidence proves the plant is profitable and has no intention of shutting down."
Dominion spokesman Kenneth Holt in a statement said the utility "will always meet its obligations in the markets in which we operate."
"But we do have the ability, within the current market rules, to cease operations if a facility is no longer economically viable," Holt continued.
With respect to those opposed to Senate Bill 106, Holt said the "dirty fossil fuel generators" are threatened by the state "smartly choosing to purchase power from clean, reliable, carbon-free sources of electricity like Millstone."
"Connecticut consumers pay the highest retail electric rates in the country," Holt said. "SB 106 would reduce those rates by cutting out the middle man and allowing the state to buy directly from Millstone."
Senate Bill 106 currently is awaiting hearing in the full House of Representatives and Senate after passing the state General Assembly's joint Energy and Technology Committee on March 21 in a 17-7 vote. The bill also seeks to boost the consumption of hydropower, biomass and other low-emission generation within Connecticut and increase the state's renewable portfolio standard from 20% by 2020 to 40% by 2040 as well.
The bill's language limits eligibility for the nuclear contract to only nuclear facilities that are relicensed to operate through 2029 or later. Besides Millstone, the only other New England nuclear plant that could possibly be eligible is NextEra Energy Inc. 's Seabrook plant in New Hampshire, which is currently seeking a renewal of its initial license beyond 2030. A final decision on its relicensing application has yet to be issued by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.