Dominion reviewing state agencies' request for data on Millstone

Dominion's Millstone Power Station is seen from the air July 9, 2011. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Dominion's Millstone Power Station is seen from the air July 9, 2011. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Hartford — State agencies have requested data related to the Millstone Power Station's expected performance, expenses and revenues, including 10 years' worth of annual financial statements, as they begin a study on the nuclear plant's economic viability.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority are requesting the data by Aug. 29. The data will help them build a "base case" for Millstone through 2035 that will enable the state agencies to assess its economic viability, according to a presentation during a public hearing Thursday at DEEP headquarters.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had ordered the agencies to complete the study and present the results to him and the legislature by Feb. 1, 2018.

Plant owner Dominion received the request Tuesday night, said Kevin Hennessy, the company's director of federal, state and local affairs in New England. 

"We're reviewing it, and we will respond in due time," he said.

The agencies outlined the process for their study on Millstone and the role of nuclear energy and other energy sources in the state.

During the public hearing on the scope of the study, as well as in written comments submitted for the hearing, some continued to call on Dominion to release financial information about Millstone, while others emphasized Millstone's role in providing energy and jobs for the state. No representatives from Dominion spoke during the hearing.

David Thomas, an AARP volunteer representing ratepayers, said the AARP is not against nuclear power, but said there would have to be a demonstrated need before the state should consider a "special deal" for Millstone.

"In that case, they need to open up their books and demonstrate that particular need," he said.

John Thompson, a consumer and also an electrician with IBEW Local 90 who has worked on the Millstone site, mentioned that Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant are already gone and said he was concerned about the impact if Millstone shuts down.

"I'm concerned about the economic impact on that area of the state. We lost a lot of businesses already, so what's that going to look like going forward for taxpayers, not just ratepayers?" he said. "When you look at supply and demand, you lose another supplier, the demand's not going to change, so what's that going to do to the overall cost?"

James Shuckerow, director of electric supply for Eversource Energy, said financial information from Dominion is critical to the study. He recommended the study focus on Millstone's projected operations and expenses for the upcoming five-year period.

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said in written testimony that Millstone provides the equivalent of 50 percent of the power used each day in Connecticut and "generates a $1.5 billion dollar fiscal impact" in the state. 

“I encourage DEEP/PURA to complete this report and its recommendations as soon as possible, as this docket will be running in concert with Dominion’s strategic assessment of Millstone," he said. "There would be nothing more regrettable than DEEP/PURA recommending appropriate action to keep Millstone open after they (Dominion) had already started turning off the lights.”

State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, said that, "As a state, we cannot afford to lose our nuclear power plant for many reasons including, but not limited to, the adverse negative impact a premature closing of Millstone would have on the environment, the economy, and the cost of electricity in the State of Connecticut."

Arthur Wickson, a retired Millstone employee, called for a "true audit" of Millstone in his written comments.

"Let natural gas lines in from shale gas areas to allow true competition," he continued. "Power lines left from Connecticut Yankee in Haddam Neck would be ideal for a new combined gas generator."

Dominion said in June that it was beginning a strategic assessment of its plans for Millstone, after legislation failed in the General Assembly that would have allowed the state to study nuclear power plants and then potentially open up a competitive procurement process, currently reserved for renewable and other low-emissions electricity providers, to the nuclear plant.

Dominion has been continuing to seek legislative action.

The Stop the Millstone Payout coalition, a group opposed to legislation affecting Millstone that includes Calpine Corp., Dynegy, NRG Energy, and the Electric Power Supply Association, issued a news release following Thursday's hearing and continued to express opposition: "To date, Millstone has refused to let policymakers see their financials to determine whether the company actually needs additional money," the release stated.

Dominion says it is seeking the opportunity to participate in a state-sponsored competitive procurement process, which is open to every other energy resource, except for nuclear and two other resources.

"No other bidder has provided financial information for this opportunity," Dominion said. "Millstone should be treated equally."

"Because it is a bid process, if it's not a good deal for ratepayers, the state doesn't have to accept it," Dominion added. "It's in our best interest to put forward a bid that helps ratepayers lower their electric bills, which are the highest in the continental United States, while at the same time providing Millstone some degree of certainty."

During Thursday's hearing, DEEP and PURA said they envision the study will include the background on the current electricity market and the state's emission goals, as well as an assessment of the economic viability of Millstone and what would happen if the plant was retired. The state agencies will offer possible mechanisms to either retain or replace Millstone, including no action, according to the presentation.

The data requested from Dominion includes 30 items, including annual financial statements from 2007 to 2017, and information on capacity and future performance. The agencies also ask for information on a potential shutdown of Unit 2 or Unit 3, or both, such as how long it would take for the nuclear fuel to be put in storage casks.

In addition to analyzing Millstone, the study also will consider the role of nuclear energy, hydropower, demand reduction, energy storage and emissions-free renewable energy "in helping Connecticut meet interim and long-term carbon and other emissions targets, at the least cost and with greatest net benefit to Connecticut ratepayers, while maintaining the reliability of Connecticut's electric grid," according to Thursday's presentation.

The agencies will issue a draft report and hold public meetings in Hartford and southeastern Connecticut in December, according to a tentative schedule.

k.drelich@theday.com

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