Legislative committee to vote on Millstone bill next week

Dominion Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford is seen from the air on May 11, 2005.  (Sean D. Elliot/photo)
Dominion Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford is seen from the air on May 11, 2005. (Sean D. Elliot/photo)

The Millstone Power Station would be allowed to sell its electricity to Eversource and United Illuminating in a five-year contract awarded through a state-run bid process, under a bill scheduled to be voted on by the state Legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee next week.

The bill, SB 106, existed as a “placeholder” measure without explanatory text until late Monday, when the 19-page version was released. The purpose of the bill is to offer the Waterford nuclear power plant the chance to compete in a bid process with renewable energy sources to sell its power directly to the utilities. Currently, Millstone owner Dominion Resources sells its power to hedge funds and Wall Street financial institutions, which in turn sell it to the regional wholesale market.

Officials at Millstone, which generates about 2,100 megawatts of power — half of all the electricity used in the state — argue that consumers would see lower energy prices as a result of the bill’s passage, and the company would gain financial stability at a time when nuclear power plants around the country are vulnerable to volatile energy markets.

“We have said from the beginning that we want to maintain our baseload power as a bridge to the renewable future,” state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, co-chairman of the committee, said Tuesday.

Formica said the bill was written so that it would foster renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, hydroelectric, trash-to-energy and fuel cells, while at the same time stabilizing Millstone as a baseload source of power.

Under the bill, Millstone would be allowed to sell up to 950 megawatts of power in a single five-year contract through the state-run bid process, provided the deal is in the best interest of ratepayers after review by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Office of the Consumer Counsel and the attorney general. Formica said the bill would have to be revised in the future to allow that process to be repeated for another five-year contract.

State Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, co-chairwoman of the committee, said the five-year limit was set deliberately to give renewables a chance to develop sufficient capacity to eventually replace Millstone’s power altogether.

“We’re in a transition,” she said. “Twenty-one hundred megawatts is hard to replace on a dime. But we didn’t want to make this available to Millstone into perpetuity, and wipe everyone else out with an old technology. We’re trying to look at this holistically. We don’t want to let Millstone overwhelm the renewables, but give them a level of certainty so they stay during the interim.”

To ensure that the action does not give Millstone an unfair advantage, renewables would be able to sell their power to the utilities in 20-year contracts, Formica said. The bill lays out a timeline through 2040 for the state to increase the percentage of power coming from renewables.

“The renewable portfolio standard is what we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “We know nuclear has a shelf life. We’re trying to make the transition.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission license for Millstone Unit 2 is set to expire in 2035, while the Unit 3 license will expire in 2045.

The committee will take up the bill next Tuesday and vote on whether to send it to the state Senate for a vote, Formica said. If approved in the Senate, it would go to the House of Representatives for a vote.

During a public hearing in February on the placeholder bill, groups including the state chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons and companies that own natural-gas-fired power plants objected to the bill, characterizing it as a subsidy for Millstone that would not benefit ratepayers. UI also expressed concerns that the measure could give Millstone an unfair advantage over other power producers.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association, however, favored the measure as a means of preserving jobs, benefitting ratepayers and the environment by ensuring that Millstone, which produces power without greenhouse gas emissions, remains viable.

Ken Holt, spokesman for Millstone, said the complete version of the bill is “smart energy policy that will benefit Connecticut consumers.

“It’s clear from the legislation that Connecticut’s energy future is clean and low-cost electricity, not dirty and expensive,” he said. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to compete to help the state achieve its energy goals.”



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