Critics say Exelon trying to short-cut review process for Ginna

Various subsidiaries of NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) told the New York State Public Service Commission on Sept. 15 that Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC) is trying to short-cut a PSC process for retiring power plants related to the possible shutdown of the Ginna nuclear plant.

On July 11, Exelon and its Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC (CENG) and R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant LLC (GNPP) affiliates filed with the New York commission a “Petition for Initiation of Proceeding to Examine Proposal for Continued Operation of R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant.”

They want an order from the commission:

  • finding that the Additional Reliability Study commissioned by the petitioners and submitted with the petition establishes a need for the Ginna Facility’s continued operation;
  • directing Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E) and GNPP to negotiate and file by December 1, 2014, a Reliability Support Services Agreement “of an appropriate duration and with a commencement date of no earlier than January 11, 2015”; and
  • finding that petitioners’ communications with individual commissioners, PSC staff, RG&E and the New York ISO, including the filing of the petition and the Additional Reliability Study, “constitute full and sufficient notice to the Commission to satisfy the advance notice requirements with respect to consideration of retirement generally and the Ginna Facility specifically.”

NRG Power Marketing LLC, GenOn Energy Management LLC, Arthur Kill Power LLC, Astoria Gas Turbine Power LLC, Dunkirk Power LLC, Huntley Power LLC, NRG Bowline LLC and Oswego Harbor Power LLC (collectively called the “NRG Companies”) on Sept. 15 urged the commission to reject the petition and direct the petitioners, to the extent they wish to pursue retirement of the Ginna facility, to file appropriate written notice with the commission as required under commission procedures.

“Alternatively, to the extent the Commission deems the Petition to constitute adequate notice pursuant to the requirements of the Retirement Notice Order, the Commission must carry out its full obligations under those procedures, in the interest of transparency, cost-effectiveness and customer protection,” the NRG Companies said. “Specifically, the Commission should require that the NYISO and RG&E conduct a full evaluation of the reliability impacts of a retirement of the Ginna facility, in both the short- and long-term, and should direct those parties to conduct a solicitation and evaluation of alternatives to resolve any identified reliability needs.”

They added: “The Commission should not sanction Petitioners’ effort to short-cut the notice, study and alternatives process required under the Commission’s procedures. The Commission should reject the Petition and direct Petitioners, to the extent they wish to proceed with retirement of the Ginna facility, to file a written notice with the Secretary of the Commission pursuant the procedures established in the Retirement Notice Order.”

Entergy companies also say this petition is inappropriate

Entergy Nuclear FitzPatrick LLC, Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 2 LLC, Entergy Indian Point 3 LLC and Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc. (collectively, the “Entergy Entities”) also filed Sept. 15 comments on the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant LLC petition concerning the 581-MW R.E. Ginna facility.

Said the Entergy companies: “The Petition warrants denial on both procedural and substantive grounds. The Petition fails to meet the procedural requirements established by the NYPSC in its Generator Retirement Notice Proceeding. In that proceeding, the NYPSC identified generator retirement notices as necessary to ensure that (i) reliability needs triggered by generator retirements are adequately defined and (ii) solutions to such reliability needs are assessed, in each case through transparent processes and all with the objective of minimizing costs to consumers and impacts on the wholesale markets. In direct contrast to the actions taken by other generators, Petitioner here has not publicly filed a notice to retire its generation facility.

“Instead, the Petition references private meetings with the New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (‘NYISO’), unnamed NYPSC commissioners, unnamed members of the staff of the Department of Public Service (‘DPS Staff’) and RG&E and asserts that such meetings “constitute[d] full and sufficient notice….’ As a result of Petitioner’s election to bypass the established generator retirement process, the applicable NYPSC, responsible transmission owner (‘TO’), and NYISO processes that are employed when generating facilities are proposed to be mothballed or retired have not been publicly triggered and performed.”

The Entergy companies added: “System reliability issues arising from the mothballing of generating facilities previously were identified in the Dunkirk and Cayuga proceedings when the comprehensive reliability studies were completed. Petitioner here, however, seeks to have the NYPSC ‘fast-forward’ to direct the filing of a RSSA and bypass the intervening steps that would identify reliability issues arising from a Ginna mothballing or retirement. The very purpose of those steps is to establish the nature of the need, its extent, its duration, and means to address it without intruding on FERC’s exclusive jurisdiction over wholesale electric sales. Granting the Petition on the current inadequate record would be inconsistent with Generator Retirement Notice Order requirements and put the New York system at risk of unaddressed reliability impacts.”

Major industrials join the opposition

Other Sept. 15 comments came from Multiple Intervenors, an unincorporated association of approximately 60 large industrial, commercial and institutional energy consumers with manufacturing and other facilities located throughout New York State. They pointed out that they already have a pending motion to dismiss this case.

The intervenors noted at one point: “Petitioners rely on the Reliability Study as proof positive that a threatened retirement of Ginna definitely would create a reliability problem necessitating an RSSA. While further analyses may demonstrate the need for an RSSA (assuming Petitioners file written notice of an impending retirement with the Commission, such notice is posted on the NYISO’s website, and an alternative, near-term solution is not identified), Petitioners’ reliance on the Reliability Study is misplaced. Initially, as demonstrated, supra, in other instances of an impending retirement or mothballing, such as the circumstances pertaining to the Dunkirk Facility and the Cayuga Facility, the Commission requested that the NYISO and the impacted utility conduct an independent reliability study. That has not occurred here. Instead, Exelon commissioned the Reliability Study from the NYISO, and that study is different from what an independent reliability study would analyze.”

Prior to its expiration on June 30, 2014, the Ginna Facility was operating under a purchase power agreement (PPA) with Rochester Gas and Electric for a majority of its output. Ginna is now a fully merchant generator in the wholesale market.

“On a forward-looking basis, CENG management has analyzed the revenues the Ginna Facility would expect to receive for energy and capacity sales in the New York Independent System Operator (‘NYISO’) markets following the PPA’s expiration,” the July 11 application noted. “CENG management determined that the expected revenues from the Ginna Facility’s sale of capacity and energy into the NYISO markets will not be sufficient to cover its costs of continued operation, including required new capital investment.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.