Exelon continues to look for options for Midwest nuclear fleet

While Exelon (NYSE:EXC) is still looking to shore up the economic future of certain Midwest nuclear units, the company is heartened by recent action by Illinois lawmakers requiring state regulators to study the implications of premature nuclear plant retirements.

The Illinois House passed HR 1146 in late May that calls upon various state agencies to study ways to best support Illinois nuclear plants. The affected state agencies are directed to report their findings to the General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn (D). The findings should be reported between Nov.15 and when the 98th General Assembly adjourns.

The resolution directs the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to prepare a report showing how premature closing of existing nuclear plants in Illinois will affect jobs and business. The Illinois EPA is instructed to prepare a report on how premature retirements of nuclear units would affect greenhouse gas emissions.

The Illinois Power Agency is directed to prepare a report showing how nuclear plant retirements would affect reliability and capacity for the Midwest region. In addition, the Illinois Commerce Commission is urged to prepare a report on how transmission infrastructure might be expanded “to allow Illinois to transport clean electricity to other parts of the nation.”

An Exelon spokesperson told GenerationHub that Exelon has committed to Gov. Quinn and Illinois House and Senate leadership, labor leaders and other stakeholders that the company won’t make any decisions about its economically challenged nuclear plants in Illinois before June 2015.

“We look forward to working with policymakers, our friends in labor, and other key stakeholders to find needed long-term solutions and bring about necessary reforms,” the Exelon spokesperson said.

Exelon nuclear plants in Illinois include Braidwood, Byron, Clinton, Dresden, LaSalle and Quad Cities.

Early this year, Exelon CEO Chris Crane said some of the nuclear units were struggling financially and could be in danger of premature retirement. Crane has said that baseload nuclear power is not fully valued in the current marketplace. He also faulted subsidized renewable energy for distorting the market.

Crane then said in May in Washington, D.C., that the situation has improved somewhat in recent months.

The Illinois House resolution says that Illinois nuclear plants account for over half of the state’s total electricity generation and 92% of the state’s non-carbon electric generation.

When asked about the U.S. EPA’s recently-announced rule proposal to cut CO2 emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, the Exelon spokesman said the company is still reviewing it.

“We are pleased that the draft rule recognizes the critical importance of supporting the continued operation of the nation’s nuclear fleet. Our fleet provides around the clock, emissions-free energy that performs during all weather conditions, including times of severe weather like the polar vortex,” the Exelon spokesman said.

“We look forward to working with EPA and key stakeholders in the coming months as the rule is finalized,” the company spokesperson said.

When asked if the EPA rule proposal could make Exelon re-think its earlier decision to retire Oyster Creek by the end of 2019, the spokesman was non-committal.

“Exelon has not changed its plans to operate Oyster Creek until 2019. As always, we continually review the economic viability of all our generating units,” the spokesperson said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.