State deems Millstone ‘at risk’

Dominion Millstone Nuclear Power Station, Waterford, on May 11, 2005.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Dominion Millstone Nuclear Power Station, Waterford, on May 11, 2005. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Waterford — The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority on Wednesday found Millstone Power Station at risk of early retirement, a designation sought by owner Dominion Energy, lawmakers and supporters of the nuclear plant for years.

Dominion earlier this year successfully pushed for entry into the state’s zero-carbon electricity auction, sidestepping some competition from historically cheap natural gas to battle higher-priced solar, wind and hydropower facilities for contracts with utilities.

PURA’s decision to declare Millstone’s Units 2 and 3 at risk should give Millstone’s bids an edge in the auction; the determination allows the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to grade Dominion’s bids not only on price but on economic and environmental benefits the plant provides to the state.

The announcement followed the agency's draft decision last month.

While Dominion’s critics have noted that state-hired consultants found Millstone to be profitable for the foreseeable future, regulators also said premature closure would lead to drastic economic losses to local and state economies, grid unreliability and greater carbon dioxide emissions from replacement power sources.

For months Dominion and backers of the plant called at-risk status crucial to Millstone’s continued operation, arguing the company may not even submit a bid in the zero-carbon auction without full consideration of the plant’s benefits.

“We are grateful that PURA found Millstone is at risk of early retirement,” plant spokesman Ken Holt said. “We provided regulators unprecedented access to our audited financials. After conducting thorough reviews, all three agencies involved determined that Millstone is at risk.”

DEEP and the Office of Consumer Counsel previously urged PURA to deem the plant at risk of retirement.

Holt added that Dominion’s offers in the zero-carbon auction “are all strongly positive for customers, providing significant value to Connecticut consumers in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars to over a billion dollars, depending on the offer. We look forward to the opportunity to provide these savings, as well as Millstone’s environmental and economic benefits including jobs, to Connecticut customers.”

Bid prices remain unknown as DEEP is reviewing offers from more than 100 facilities and projects in development in the zero-carbon auction. It expects to pick winning proposals by the end of the year, at which point winning power producers will hammer out contracts with Eversource and United Illuminating.

PURA must then approve those contracts by next spring.

b.kail@theday.com

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