By - Jim Vess

PJM says proposed closing of FirstEnergy nuclear plants will not impact grid reliability

Energize Weekly, May 9, 2018

PJM Interconnection, the operator of the grid and wholesale electric market covering portions of the mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, said that the proposed closing of three nuclear power plants in its system will not threaten grid stability.

FirstEnergy said it will close two financially struggling nuclear plants in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania—a total of about 4,000 megawatts (MW)—by the end of 2021 if it does not get some economic relief.

The Akron, Ohio-based investor-owned utility asked the U.S. Department of Energy to issue an emergency order to the PJM to offer “just and reasonable” compensation to keep money-losing nuclear and coal-fired plants open.

“Nuclear and coal-fired generators in PJM have been closing at a rapid rate—putting PJM’s system resiliency at risk,” the company said in a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “PJM has demonstrated little urgency to remedy this problem any time soon—so immediate action by the Secretary is needed to alleviate the present emergency.”

At one point, the use of a Cold War-era national security law was proposed. “The Nation’s security is jeopardized if DOE does not act now to preserve fuel-secure generation and the diversity of supply,” the letter said.

But a PJM reliability analysis concluded otherwise. “New and existing baselines resolve identified impacts,” the analysis said. “Units can retire as scheduled. Operational flexibility allows to bridge any delays with the transmission upgrades.”

“Sufficient transmission margin remains after deactivations to import emergency power into impacted LDAs,” PJM said. An LDA, or load deliverability area, is the unit the grid operator uses to measure delivery constraints.

“This is yet another reason for the Department of Energy to deny FirstEnergy’s request for a bailout,” John Moore, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Sustainable FERC Project, said in a statement. “There is more than enough power supply in the region to serve customers into the next decade. FirstEnergy’s plea for a profit guarantee would [saddle] customers with billions of dollars [in costs] without getting any reliability benefit in return.” 

FirstEnergy challenged the PJM findings. “The results of the PJM reliability study highlight that their review ignores the value that these units offer the grid in terms of fuel diversity and zero-carbon emissions generation,” Don Moul, president of FirstEnergy Solutions, the company’s generation unit, said in a statement. 

The nuclear units FirstEnergy has said it will close are the 894 MW Davis-Besse Unit 1 in Ohio, the 920 MW Beaver Valley Unit 1 in Pennsylvania, the 1,240 MW Perry Unit 1 in Ohio, and the 914 MW Beaver Valley Unit 2 in Pennsylvania.

The first of the units would close in May 2020 and the last in October 2021.

The PJM analysis did conclude that some transmission upgrades are required “to preserve deliverability of all existing PJM capacity resources under various contingency conditions.”

“Any power delivery issues as a result of the deactivations can be alleviated through transmission expansions already planned for the system,” PJM reported

“Sufficient transmission margin remains to ensure that under normal peak conditions, there is enough redispatch options to operate the system with two single outages,” PJM said.

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