New York PSC offers help to FitzPatrick, Ginna nuclear plants

The New York State Public Service Commission said Feb. 23 that the FitzPatrick nuclear facility in Oswego County could be financially sound and ready for refueling as soon as June under an expedited rescue plan proposed that day by the commission.

In addition to proposing the plan and commencing the necessary public comment process, the commission also repeated its offer to work cooperatively with the facility’s owner, Entergy Corp. (NYSE: ETR), to take steps necessary to keep the plant operating beyond this year. Entergy had reported that the deactivation of the 882-MW facility is intended to occur at the end of the current fuel cycle, in late 2016 or early 2017.

“The plan would enable expedited financial support to FitzPatrick and other qualified nuclear power plants in Upstate New York,” said Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman. “Until then, we invite Entergy to work with us to make the plans necessary to refuel FitzPatrick and to support the statewide objectives of New York’s new Clean Energy Standard.”

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this year called for the establishment of a Clean Energy Standard that would develop enough clean, renewable power to meet half of the state’s electricity needs by 2030. This “50 by 30” mandate depends on the continued, safe operation of fully-licensed nuclear plants. Without those plants, greenhouse gas emissions could rise significantly if more power is needed from fossil-fuel generation to replace the energy lost from the closure of the nuclear plants.

As part of the Clean Energy Standard, the commission has been formulating a new energy credit that would, for the first time, place a monetary value on the zero-emission power produced by FitzPatrick and other qualified plants. Because these Zero Emissions Credits (ZECs) cannot produce revenues on an immediate basis, the commission on Feb. 23 ordered development and consideration of a faster response to the financial problems currently affecting FitzPatrick and other nuclear facilities.

This order follows a report by the New York Independent System Operator that found the absence of FitzPatrick and other nuclear facilities would lead to reliability concerns. The ISO’s finding bolsters the need for a financial support mechanism to help retain upstate nuclear plants and avoid an unnecessary increase in carbon emissions.

The commission on Feb. 23 also approved a Reliability Support Services Agreement (RSSA) between Rochester Gas & Electric and the 581-MW Ginna Nuclear facility located near Rochester. Ginna is an Exelon (NYSE: EXC) operation. A temporary surcharge has been in place since last year and the Feb. 23 order approves the RSSA through March 31, 2017 (pending the completion of transmission systems upgrades required before the Ginna Plant may retire from service, and payments to be made by RG&E to Ginna for that reliability support.) The plant in mid 2014 lost its long-term contract to supply power to RG&E, leaving it to sell power in a market that is too low-priced to support its output.

Following public comments and additional study, the commission is expected to consider adoption of the Clean Energy Standard in June. If the mandate includes ZECs, these new credits would potentially take effect following the end of the RSSA support payments to Ginna on March 31, 2017.

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.