Opponents launch petition against Millstone deal; Dominion says group 'misleads' consumers

Waterford — A group that has opposed Dominion Energy's efforts to allow the Millstone Power Station to participate in energy procurement auctions has now launched a new online petition.

Matt Fossen, spokesman for Stop the Millstone Payout coalition, a group that includes Calpine Corp., Dynegy, NRG Energy, and the Electric Power Supply Association, said Monday that the petition is intended to "show policymakers the depth and breadth of opposition to this ratepayer-funded corporate payout." He said the petition garnered at least 358 signatures within four days.

Fossen said the petition is in response to an Aug. 9 report in The Connecticut Mirror. That report stated Senate Democrats meeting about the budget discussed the possibility of having the state "extract revenue off new energy procurement rules sought by Dominion." Such a change could generate as much as $125 million for the state.

"We urge legislators in Hartford to reject any attempt to give Millstone a financial payout through the state's budget, regardless of any incentives the plant is willing to give to the state in exchange," the petition states. "The democratic process should remain free from this type of external bartering."

But Dominion Energy, which is continuing to seek the legislation and also began a strategic assessment of its plans for Millstone after legislation failed in the General Assembly this past session, responded Monday that the coalition "continues misleading the media and Connecticut consumers."

"Dominion has never sought state financial assistance," Ken Holt, a spokesman for Dominion, said in a statement. "Instead, Dominion seeks the opportunity for Millstone to participate in Connecticut’s energy procurement auctions. Connecticut has granted that authority to existing resources owned by foreign governments and to fossil fuels. Allowing a stable, low-cost, in-state, carbon-free resource to bid is smart policy. If Millstone’s bid is good regulators should accept it. If it is not good, they should reject it. It’s that simple."

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is conducting a study, ordered by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, on the economic viability of Millstone. The study, due by Feb. 1, 2018, follows the failure of the proposed bill in the General Assembly that would have potentially opened up competitive bidding to nuclear power, after the state first studied the issue.

As part of the study, DEEP and PURA recently requested that ISO New England, which oversees power planning, provide information on the impact from the potential retirement of one or both Millstone units. ISO New England said it is working on the request.

In comments sent to ISO New England in response to an unrelated ISO New England draft economic study analyzing different market scenarios, Dominion cited the economic uncertainties facing nuclear power plants in deregulated markets. The study is at the request of the New England Power Pool , the association of New England market participants.

Dominion urged ISO New England to consider as part of its planning an analysis or analyses that quantifies the effects of Millstone ceasing operation in a separate scenario or within the existing scenarios.

"It is reasonable for ISO-NE to include Millstone as a potential retiring resource considering Connecticut's so far inconclusive debate about treating nuclear power on the same basis for purpose of competitive clean energy resources as other non-emitting resources and Dominion's strategic assessment regarding the future of Millstone," the Aug. 18 email from Dominion to ISO-New England states. "As wholesale prices and capacity market prices decrease, it is increasingly difficult for nuclear power plant owners in deregulated markets to make long-term capital and operating investments. ..."

Dominion also asked for a three-week extension to file data requested by DEEP and PURA by Aug. 29 for the Connecticut study.

Holt said the company has been in discussions with the state agencies, and a final decision hasn't been made.

k.drelich@theday.com

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