FirstEnergy subsidiary asks federal government to rescue nuclear plants, declares bankruptcy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is likely to have the final say on whether FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. is able to continue producing power at its nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a recent article in The Washington Post. FirstEnergy Solutions, a subsidiary of Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy, announced plans to shut down its Perry, Davis-Besse, and Beaver Valley nuclear plants, which collectively account for a steady stream of about 4 billion watts of electricity. After making that announcement, the company filed an emergency request with the DOE asking for help to keep the three nuclear plants as well as some coal-fired plants operating. Regional grid operator PJM Interconnection had previously stated the nuclear plants were not needed to maintain grid reliability (see our July 3, 2017 blog post). After FirstEnergy Solutions submitted the request to the DOE, the company declared bankruptcy, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. That filing does not involve FirstEnergy “or its distribution, transmission, regulated generation and Allegheny Energy Supply subsidiaries,” according to the Beacon Journal. For more, read the full Washington Post and Akron Beacon Journal articles.  

Transmission

Plummeting costs for wind, solar and battery technology threaten coal and gas

The economic case for coal and gas power generation faces “a mounting threat” as the costs for wind, solar and battery technology see “spectacular reductions,” new research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) shows, according to a recent article in nawindpower.com. A BNEF report on the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) “finds that fossil-fuel power is facing an unprecedented challenge in all three roles it performs in the energy mix — the supply of bulk generation, the supply of dispatchable generation and the provision of flexibility,” the article reports. Wind and solar are becoming a bigger threat for bulk generation, as their LCOEs have reduced due to falling capital costs, increased efficiency and competitive auctions. The pairing of wind and solar power with battery storage allows those renewable sources of generation to smooth output, challenging new coal and gas on dispatchable power. In flexibility, stand-alone batteries are starting to compete with open-cycle gas plants on price. For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Solar, Transmission, Wind

Landfill-based solar farm will reduce Cuyahoga County’s energy costs

Construction is set to begin April 15th on a new 4-megawatt (MW) solar farm built on a portion of a former Brooklyn, Ohio landfill—the project will save Cuyahoga County about $3 million in power costs over 25 years, Cleveland.com reports. Columbus-based IGS Solar will use approximately 17 acres of the closed landfill to construct the 35,000-panel solar array. IGS contracted with Perrysburg-based First Solar to provide the needed panels. Further, the panels themselves will be mounted on a racking system developed and manufactured by Cincinnati-based RBI Solar. Mike Foley, Cuyahoga County Sustainability Director, estimated that electricity should be flowing by mid-summer over a new transmission line currently being installed by Cleveland Public Power. IGS estimates the solar farm will produce about 5 million kilowatt-hours annually—enough to power 500 homes. For more, read the full article.

Renewable Energy, Solar, Transmission

FirstEnergy will invest over $775M to bolster grid reliability in Ohio, Pennsylvania

Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. has announced plans to invest over $775 million in 2018 on distribution, transmission and infrastructure projects, Crain’s Cleveland reports. In December 2017, the company filed plans with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to modernize its electric grid over the course of the next three years (see our December 27, 2017 blog post). The major investments will include rebuilding transmission lines, inspecting and replacing utility poles, replacing underground circuits, and adding new equipment in substations. This $775 million investment by FirstEnergy is on top of the already invested $742 million by the company between 2004 and 2016. For more, read the full article

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FERC votes to remove barriers to “participation of electric storage resources” by RTOs

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said its recently released final rule on electric storage participation will “enhance competition and promote greater efficiency in the nation’s electric wholesale markets,” nawindpower.com reports. The FERC “voted to remove barriers to the participation of electric storage resources in the capacity, energy and ancillary services markets operated by regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs),” according to the article. The commission noted in a November 2016 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that “market rules designed for traditional generation resources can create barriers to entry for emerging technologies such as electric storage resources.” The final rule helps to remove those barriers by requiring each RTO “to revise its tariff to establish a participation model for electric storage resources that consist of market rules that properly recognize the physical and operational characteristics of electric storage resources.” For more, read the full article.

Transmission

New submetering bill doesn’t do enough to protect consumers, opponents say

A new bill that would limit how much submetering companies could charge consumers “was described as an improvement . . . but still a bad deal” in testimony before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee in a recent hearing, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Senate Bill 157’s main sponsor, Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) “wants to find a middle ground” that allows submeter companies to continue to exist, while reducing price markups and increasing disclosure to consumers. Jeff Jacobson, speaking on behalf of the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, said the measure “remains inadequate for protecting Ohioans”; he “pointed out what he considers flaws” in the bill, “including a customer-complaint process” that is too cumbersome. American Electric Power vice president of external affairs Tom Froehle said submetering companies “are not subject to the detailed rules imposed on utility companies” regarding delivery of service and other requirements. For more, read the full article.

Miscellaneous, Transmission

Litigation may decide future of Lordstown’s second $900M power plant

Will the $900-million Lordstown Energy Center power plant stand alone, or be joined by a second planned facility, the Trumbull Energy Center? Legal action may decide, The Vindicator reports. In October 2017, the Ohio Power Siting Board granted permission for the Trumbull Energy Center to be built (see our October 13, 2017 blog post). The Trumbull Energy Center builder, Clean Energy Future (CEF), has filed suit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court “asking a judge to enforce agreements Clean Energy Future and its president William Siderewicz signed with Clean Energy Future Lordstown [CEF-Lordstown],” the owner of Lordstown Energy Center, according to the article. The litigation states that CEF-Lordstown “is delaying a decision on whether to sign off on Clean Energy Future being allowed to construct the second plant.” CEF-Lordstown “said the reason for the delay is to conduct a months-long study to determine the impact the second plant would have on the first plant.” For more, read the full article.

Transmission

Net metering rules: reasonable limitations or detrimental restrictions? PUCO hears both sides

An uncommon opportunity for “utilities, environmental groups and other stakeholders” to testify before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) elicited diverse opinions on the PUCO’s recent changes to net metering rules in Ohio, Gongwer Ohio reports. The new net metering rules may reduce the amount of credit that net metering customers receive for power returned to the grid (see our November 15, 2017 blog post). PUCO Chairman Asim Haque said the direct feedback at the January 10 hearing (see our January 9, 2018 blog post) was “extraordinarily helpful.” FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, and Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) all expressed support for the new rules. In particular, DP&L counsel Michael Schuler argued that the rules “strike a delicate balance that both encourages the development of distributed generation . . . while also ensuring reasonable limits to ensure safe and reliable service.” Environmental groups, however, “suggested the rules could be detrimental to those who have already installed solar or wind energy by not crediting them for their existing value.”

Renewable Energy, Solar, Transmission, Wind

Davis-Besse plant decision will have major economic impact on Ottawa County

Whether or not closing Ottawa County’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station would harm grid reliability (see our July 3, 2017 blog post), the economic impact of shutting down the plant could be dramatic, the Port Clinton News Herald reports. A 2015 Nuclear Energy Institute economic study of the Davis-Besse plant shows its operation “generates $805 million of annual economic output in Ottawa County and $1.1 billion statewide,” according to the article. Davis-Besse currently employs 700 people at an average annual salary of approximately $86,000, and the plant’s activities “support 3,600 other full-time jobs statewide.” County economic development director Jamie Beier Grant and Ottawa County Commissioner Mark Stahl “have made two trips to Washington D.C. to meet with federal officials in hopes of getting some federal help” to keep the plant running (see our October 25, 2017 blog post). For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Transmission

FirstEnergy proposes up to 2 percent rate hike for grid improvements

FirstEnergy wants to make $450 million in grid improvements, and the utility is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to approve an electricity rate increase of up to 2 percent to fund that work, Cleveland.com reports. Doug Colafella, a spokesperson for FirstEnergy, said the utility “will improve power lines that have had extended power outages in the past,” using new technology that “would allow workers to isolate the outages, restore electricity to nearby customers and then repair the affected lines,” according to the article. The increase would be lower in the first year and gradually rise over three years. Improvements are also needed to modernize electrical distribution for “smart grid” capabilities including “smart meters informing customers how much energy they are using throughout the day.” For more, read the full article

Transmission
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