Energy groups, greens slam utility’s plea for emergency rescue
Groups representing certain energy sources are joining with environmentalists and others to criticize FirstEnergy Corp.’s request that the Trump administration rescue its coal and nuclear power plants.
Competing power sources accused FirstEnergy of misleading the Energy Department and the public into thinking the electric grid is at a far higher risk of failure without coal and nuclear plants than it is.
“FirstEnergy needs to stop misleading the public and government officials about the status of its power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Todd Snitchler, director of market development at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement.
“FirstEnergy’s latest attempt to spread a false narrative surrounding the reliability of the electric grid is nothing more than a ruse that will force Main Street consumers to pay higher prices.”
Advanced Energy Economy, which represents companies that buy clean energy, joined in.
“This outrageous attempt to evade established market procedures is unprecedented,” said Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president for policy at the organization.
“FirstEnergy is asking the Secretary of Energy to exercise authority that is reserved for an emergency threatening national security just to salvage power plants that are losing money for their owners and costing money for consumers.”
The Sierra Club promised a lawsuit if Energy Secretary Rick Perry granted the utility’s wish.
“After making foolish investments in expensive and dangerous coal and nuclear plants, FirstEnergy Solutions is again demanding that electricity customers bail them out through this outrageously illegal proposal,” said Mary Ann Hitt, director of the group’s Beyond Coal program.
“Ratepayers and regulators have already rejected multiple attempts by the company to bail out these coal and nuclear plants that can no longer compete in the marketplace.”
FirstEnergy asked Perry Thursday to order PJM Interconnection, electric grid operator for Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and some surrounding states, to pay more for coal and nuclear power so that operators can recover their costs so they do not shut down.
The request came after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March rejected Perry’s plan to institute such a requirement in all competitive electricity markets, a plan that FirstEnergy vocally supported.
PJM also rejected FirstEnergy’s arguments and asked Perry to deny the request.
“Nothing we have seen suggests there is any kind of emergency from these units retiring,” said Vincent Duane, senior vice president at PJM. “This is not an issue of reliability. There is no immediate emergency.”