The Connecticut state Senate last Friday approved a bill that would allow Dominion Energy’s Millstone nuclear plant to compete with generation sources that do not emit carbon dioxide instead of against natural gas-fired generation.
Under the bill the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) would solicit up to 12,000 GWh annually from zero-carbon generation sources, contingent on the outcome of a study being conducted by DEEP and the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority into the economic viability of the nuclear plant.
- The bill still needs to be passed by the state’s house, which has not yet scheduled a vote. The nuclear viability study is slated for completion by Feb. 1, 2018.
Connecticut lawmakers last week revived a measure to study financial support for the state's sole nuclear plant after the proposal stalled earlier in the summer.
In June the House failed to pass a similar bill calling on regulators to study including Millstone in a zero-carbon electricity solicitation.
The measure made it back in the agenda, however, after Dominion raised concerns that it might be forced to close the plant if it had to continue to compete directly with cheap natural gas-fired generation in the wholesale power market. Competition from gas and renewables is threatening baseload nuclear and coal generation in power markets nationwide.
In a July executive order, Gov. Daniel Malloy (D) directed utility regulators to review Millstone’s financial viability and its role in meeting state carbon targets.
Now legislators are pushing to codify that order into law. Any subsidy under the new bill, which was approved 28-9 by the Senate, would depend on the outcome of DEEP’s analysis.
The 12,000 GWh solicitation would account for more than 70% of Millstone's annual electricity output of 16,385 GWh. The plant provides about half of the state's power, and Dominion has touted its role in providing jobs and zero-carbon generation.
The company welcomed the Senate action last week, but urged action from regulators.
“We’re fine with the study as long as there’s action on the back end,” spokesman Kevin Hennessy told The Hartford Courant.
Critics say the Millstone plant is not actually financially threatened, citing an MIT working paper that listed Millstone as one of the most profitable nukes in the country. Dominion says even the most profitable nuclear generators are struggling to compete with natural gas.
The bill must still be approved by the Connecticut House, where leaders say it remains a tough sell.
“It’s very controversial in our caucus,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D) told CT News Junkie.