FirstEnergy asked to keep two plants on line over reliability concerns

PJM Interconnection has asked FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE) to continue operating two power plants in Pennsylvania beyond their planned deactivation dates because of transmission-related reliability concerns that would arise from their planned closures.

“We sent a letter to FirstEnergy saying that we have some reliability concerns about shutting the plants down when they had requested,” a PJM spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 19. “We came up with some things that need to be done in order for [those closures] to move forward.”

The specific reliability issues are confidential until FirstEnergy responds to the Aug. 13 notification, the spokesperson said, but confirmed that they are transmission-related and would arise after the plants are retired unless mitigating measures are taken.

“We identified different things that need to happen, and we have to wait to hear from FirstEnergy about what they intend to do,” the spokesperson said, noting that the company has 30 days from the date of the notice to respond with specific plans.

A PJM report on future generation deactivations, also dated Aug. 13, said that PJM’s analysis had identified impacts from the planned Oct. 9 closures of the Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station Units 1, 2 and 3 located near Masontown, Pa., and the Mitchell Power Station units 2 and 3 in Courtney, Pa.

Each coal-fired Hatfield’s Ferry units has a capacity of 530 MW and is between 41 and 43 years old. Mitchell Unit 2 is an oil-fired unit capable of generating 82 MW and is the older of the two units at 63 years old, while the Mitchell Unit 3 is a coal-fired unit capable of generating 277 MW and is 49 years old, according to the PJM report.

“If they will move ahead with making the necessary changes or delaying their dates [for plant closure], they would then file with FERC for … [reliability must-run]” agreements, the spokesperson said.

For its part, FirstEnergy officials say they are still reviewing the matter and PJM’s request..

“We are moving forward with plans to close down the plants in October, but we are having dialogue [with PJM] at the same time … to determine the options, what are the appropriate things to do here,” a FirstEnergy spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 20, adding “It’s premature to speculate what may happen” over the next several weeks.

FirstEnergy announced July 9 that it planned to deactivate both plants by Oct. 9 “based on the cost of compliance with current and future environmental regulations in conjunction with the continued low market price for electricity.”

The company said the plants represent “approximately 10% of the company’s total generating capacity, but about 30% of the estimated $925m cost to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).”

Retrofitting Hatfield would cost $245m, while retrofitting Mitchell would cost $33m, the company said.

This article was updated Aug. 20 to include the response from FirstEnergy.