Dominion: State's own energy strategy shows importance of 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)

Waterford — Dominion Energy told state agencies Friday that the state's own draft energy strategy points to the importance of Millstone Power Station, and the company is assuming the document will serve as a "baseline" for a study on the nuclear plant's economic viability ordered by the governor.

The state's draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy, released last month, shows that "closure of Millstone would mean higher carbon emissions, higher customer bills, more reliance on a single fossil fuel, and lesser reliability, particularly in the winter," Dominion's CEO Paul D. Koonce said in written comments Friday to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

Koonce's comments were in response to a public hearing held Thursday in Hartford on the state agencies' study of Millstone's viability. State agencies have requested Dominion provide by Aug. 29 data on Millstone's finances and expected performance.

Groups that include the AARP and a coalition of energy companies renewed their calls on Thursday for Dominion to publicly share financial information.

Responding to the comments, Koonce reiterated that Dominion is seeking a chance to compete in the state's competitive bidding process, already open to renewables and other low-emitting energy sources — not a subsidy that some have claimed.

"We are seeking parity for nuclear power from a competitive procurement standpoint with other non-emitting resources," Koonce wrote. "Accordingly, it is important that we maintain the same proprietary information that other competitors in this process have long maintained."

DEEP Spokesman Dennis Schain said in response Friday that the state agencies' study is consistent with the state's draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which acknowledges the importance of Millstone and the need to assess its future viability.

"We will review the document Dominion has submitted," Schain said. "If this document — and any future submissions — fail to provide the information we have requested, we will have to rely on publicly available data, analysis and modeling to make the determinations required to complete this study."

Schain said the state's requests for proposals for energy procurement lately have been aimed at stimulating new sources of power, so those facilities have no history of operating costs. The state's selection of projects largely has been based on cost of power.

When asked if any data that Dominion submits to the state would become publicly available, Schain said DEEP and PURA requested information from Dominion because the energy company can provide the most accurate data on operating expenses and revenue — and future financial forecasts — for the Millstone facility.

"While maximum public disclosure of information would be our goal, if Dominion feels certain information should be treated and handled in a confidential manner, that is something we can discuss with them and that is allowed for under state law," he said.

Kevin Hennessy, Dominion's director of federal, state and local affairs in New England, said Thursday that Dominion received the request for data on Tuesday and is reviewing it and will respond "in due time."

In his letter, Koonce took issue with comments made by utility companies and fossil fuel generators that he said would benefit if Millstone shut down.

"Efforts by incumbent utilities and fossil generators to advance their own business interests at the expense of Connecticut's retail customers should not cloud the compelling facts set forth in the state's own work," he wrote. "Without Millstone, retail prices will rise, reliability will suffer, and carbon emissions will increase. At the same time, nearly 4,000 jobs and more than $1.5 billion in economic activity will be lost."

Eversource Energy spokesman Mitch Gross responded to the letter in a statement Friday: "We wholeheartedly support the state’s examination into whether Millstone needs financial assistance. There's no question that Millstone is an important regional energy resource, but the plant's owner claims they are not making enough money and has threatened to shut down the plant without ever opening up their books to allow the state to confirm this claim. Transparency is critical, and we believe Millstone needs to be forthcoming with its financial information."

Dominion said it will continue to call for legislative action, but also will continue the "strategic assessment" of its plans for Millstone. The energy company began the assessment in June after proposed legislation failed in the General Assembly, which would have allowed the state to study nuclear energy and then potentially allow Dominion to participate in a state-sponsored competitive bidding process currently open to renewable and low-emissions power producers.

Malloy subsequently ordered in July the study of Millstone's economic viability and the role of nuclear and other energy sources in meeting the state's emissions targets.

DEEP and PURA are slated to submit the study to the governor and the legislature by Feb. 1, 2018. The state 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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