Exelon puts off decision on retiring Clinton nuclear plant

Exelon (NYSE:EXC) said Oct. 29 that it will defer any decision about the future operations of its 1,100-MW Clinton nuclear plant for one year and plans to bid the plant into the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) capacity auction for the 2016-2017 planning year.

MISO holds a capacity auction annually to ensure enough power generation resources are available to meet demand in its region covering southern Illinois and much of the Midwest. The next MISO capacity auction for planning year 2016-2017 is scheduled for late March 2016.  

MISO’s announcement this week acknowledging the need for market design changes in southern Illinois is a key factor in the company’s decision to defer for an additional year.

On Oct. 27, MISO posted an issues statement saying reforms to its capacity market process may be required to drive future investments and help ensure a reliable electricity supply for consumers, and it plans to engage stakeholders to consider such reforms.

This is the second time in the past couple of months that Exelon has delayed decisions on closing nuclear plants. Exelon said Sept. 10 that all of its nuclear plants in the PJM Interconnection (PJM) cleared in the transition capacity auction for the 2017-to-2018 planning year.

With that development, Exelon deferred any decisions about the future operations of its Quad Cities and Byron nuclear plants for one year.

Byron’s two pressurized-water reactors (PWRs) are located about 17 miles southwest of Rockford, Ill. Byron has a total combined generating capacity of more than 2,200 MW.

Quad Cities is a two-unit boiling water reactor (BWR) station located in Cordova, Ill. Each unit has a nameplate capacity of roughly 1,000 MW.

Other factors driving the decision include recent positive results from the Illinois Power Agency’s capacity procurement for 2016 and the long-term impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, among others.

“We are encouraged by MISO’s statement and the potential for market reforms that are necessary to ensure long term reliability in southern Illinois,” said Exelon President and CEO Chris Crane. “However, the Clinton plant remains unprofitable and more needs to be done.”

Exelon has lobbied, so far without success, for a new clean energy standard in Illinois that would give more credit to baseload nuclear power.

A report issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to Illinois House Resolution 1146 determined that the loss of two nuclear plants in the state would increase emissions by about 24 million short tons, more than doubling the emissions reductions required under the EPA’s carbon reduction rules and making it twice as costly to comply.

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.