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FirstEnergy seeks emergency bailout for coal and nuclear power plants



FirstEnergy has called on the US Department of Energy to declare an emergency situation that would secure higher prices for its coal and nuclear power plants, which lose money, as their closure would destabilize their power grids.

But the request is facing a tedious fight. A similar motion by Murray Energy, the coal company serving FirstEnergy's power plant fleet, was rejected by the Trump administration last year. Despite reports, DOE could schedule a rescue plan for FirstEnergy, head of the DOE's electricity supply bureau, and Energy Reliability told reporters in February that neither he nor Energy Secretary Rick Perry would consider using the agency's powers to uneconomical To support power plants.

FirstEnergy's long-awaited request comes in the face of impending bankruptcy for its power plant subsidiary. The company operates six coal and three nuclear plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia as well as gas and oil, water and wind resources.

Following a $ 6.2 billion loss in 201

6, FirstEnergy warned of a possible bankruptcy in its nuclear business in early 2017. In January, the company received $ 2.5 billion more from investors, but CEO Chuck Jones warned in February that the powerhouse's daughter was broke earlier this month.

The utility's request calls on the DOE to use its authority under Section 202 of the Federal Power Act to grant must-run contracts to its price-prone power plants, claiming that their shutdown will cause serious disruption to the served transmission system would be from mid-Atlantic network operator PJM.

"PJM has shown little urgency to resolve this issue in the foreseeable future, so immediate action by the secretary is needed to alleviate the current emergency," said Donald Schneider, president of FirstEnergy Solutions.

But the idea of ​​closing coal and equating nuclear power plants with a network emergency has been shot down again and again in recent politics. The most blatant example was Secretary Perry's call for similar price support for nuclear and coal power plants – or, more specifically, 90 days fueled power plants stored on site – rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in January. 19659002] Perry used the powers of the Department of Defense Department 202 in April 2017 to support a coal-fired power plant in Oklahoma. But in August, it rejected a similar motion from coal company Murray Energy, reportedly based on the same premise underlying FirstEnergy's request.

After DOE had considered emergency intervention for FirstEnergy's power plants, DOE secretary Bruce Walker told reporters at a February event, "We would never use a 202 to fight off an economic problem."

Related to power failure safety, Walker said DOE is working with FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation to develop better models for network reliability and resilience. But he said the agency did not receive and did not consider a plan to provide emergency support for FirstEnergy's assets.

The news from FirstEnergy's inquiry prompted a quick and negative reaction from the clean energy industry and environmental groups that have been fighting efforts to support uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants.

Mary Anne Hitt, head of the Sierra Beyond Coal campaign, threatened with litigation should the DOE request FirstEnergy's request.

Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president of advanced energy policy, called the request "an unprecedented and unprecedented effort to obtain DOE," exercising authority reserved for an emergency that threatens national security, only to power plants to rescue." They lose money for their owners and cost money to consumers. "PJM currently has capacity that far exceeds its planned needs."

However, the role of base load generators in providing reliable and resilient grid power is far from over, FERC's direction, US Secretary of State Perry's request Rejecting support for coal and nuclear power plants also opened up a new basis for network resilience, starting with the clarification of the actually unclear term and with a long list of questions for the independent system operators (ISOs) and regional broadcasting organizations (RTOs) managing transmission systems, serving about two-thirds of the country.

Earlier this month, network operators made their first replies to FERC's resilience order, giving an insight into how ISO and RTO approach the definition and evaluation of resources that storms , Cyberattacks and a Other disturbances can be prevented or eliminated.

PJM's mission stood out and explicitly called on FERC to link their resilience efforts to a separate pricing proposal on the energy market that would increase the total cost of energy and capacity from 2% to 5%, not limit energy that sets prices in traditional market constructs. Clean energy and environmental groups have rejected this plan, calling it a backdoor bailout for coal and nuclear power plants.

But the FERC has issued an unusual 3-2 vote this month to endorse another proposal by New England network operator ISO-NE to create a two-stage capacity market auction, Wind Solar [19459006FossilFuelandNuclearPowerGeneration

This contract also opened the possibility of using a market construct known as the "minimum supply price rule", which could alert clean energy agents to market access to zero marginal cost resources such as wind and solar energy.


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