Eleven energy industry groups asked the U.S. Department of Energy to open a public comment period on FirstEnergy Solutions Corp.'s request for the PJM Interconnection to prop up at-risk coal-fired and nuclear power plants in the region, saying the request would have "far-reaching implications" for the market.
The groups want Energy Secretary Rick Perry to publish a notice of the company's request in the Federal Register and provide at least 60 days for comment.
FirstEnergy Solutions', or FES', proposed action "would have far-reaching implications for the PJM markets and for a broad spectrum of parties, including those represented by the joint industry commenters," the trade groups said in a March 30 letter to Perry. "It is, therefore, imperative that all stakeholders be afforded notice, and a meaningful opportunity to be heard, before any favorable action is taken."
The letter was signed by the American Council on Renewable Energy, Advanced Energy Economy, American Forest & Paper Association, American Petroleum Institute, American Wind Energy Association, Electricity Consumers Resource Council, Electric Power Supply Association, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, Natural Gas Supply Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
On March 29, FES asked the Energy Department to invoke an emergency order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act that would direct the PJM to pay cost-based rates for power from certain coal-fired and nuclear generating facilities in the region to ensure those plants fully recover their costs. The company made the request a day after announcing it would shut down three nuclear plants in the PJM in the next two to three years and as a wave of coal plants in the market have closed or are scheduled to retire.
The industry groups behind the March 30 letter recalled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission already rejected a similar request by the DOE to shore up at-risk coal and nuclear plants in competitive markets. The groups also noted that FES did not file a request for rehearing with FERC on its rejection of the Energy Department proposal within the 30 days prescribed by the Federal Power Act, a decision that "belies claims that there is any immediate problem requiring issuance of an order before affected parties have a meaningful opportunity to be heard."
In addition, the letter said FES is asking Perry to ignore the DOE's own regulations stating that economic factors of electricity service will generally not be considered as emergencies unless an inability to supply electricity is imminent. Despite FES's petition, the groups said, "there is no imminent threat."
The Energy Department did not respond to inquiries on whether it will open a public comment period on the FES application or when the agency may decide on the company's request.