Electricity Markets

Exelon to follow through on plans to close nuclear plant

With time running out on Pennsylvania’s legislative calendar, Exelon Generation on May 8 said it plans to follow through on its previously announced plan to close its Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant in Pennsylvania on Sept. 30.

Two years ago, Exelon said that “absent needed policy reforms,” it would close the 837-MW plant. The announcement came shortly after Three Mile Island and another Exelon nuclear plant, Quad Cities in Illinois, failed to clear the PJM Interconnection's auction to procure capacity for the June 2020 – May 2021 delivery year. The plant also did not clear the 2021/22 auction, along with the Dresden and most of the Byron nuclear plants in Illinois. Exelon reported that the 2018 auction was the fourth consecutive year that Three Mile Island had failed to clear a capacity auction.

Owners of nuclear power plants in wholesale power markets report that a number of the plants have been struggling financially. A key factor is the lower energy prices resulting from the growth of low cost natural gas-fired generation and renewable energy resources.

Several states – Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut – have passed legislation or regulations that compensate nuclear plants for their ability to generate power without producing carbon dioxide emissions or other pollutants.

In March 2017, a bipartisan group of Pennsylvania state legislators formed a caucus to focus on nuclear energy issues, but so-called zero emission credit (ZEC) legislation has made little progress in the state. A draft bill was circulated in February. In April a bill was introduced that called for $541 million in ratepayer subsidies for nuclear plants, but it faced opposition from business groups and others who said the cost was too steep.

This week, with only three days left in the legislative session, Republican state Senator Ryan Aument, one of the sponsors of the bill, conceded that there was not sufficient support to pass the bill.

Pennsylvania is home to five nuclear plants, the second highest number in the U.S. In addition to Three Mile Island, Exelon owns two other nuclear plants in the state, the 1,065-MW Peach Bottom facility in York County and the 1,090-MW Limerick plant in Montgomery County. Investor-owned Exelon will continue to operate those plants.

However, FirstEnergy has said that if it does not receive government support, it plans to close its Beaver Valley nuclear plant in Pennsylvania by 2021.

Supreme Court declined to consider nuclear support program challenges

In April, the U.S. U.S. Supreme Court said it would not consider two appeals court decisions that upheld state programs in Illinois and New York that provide support for nuclear power plants.  

The Electric Power Supply Association had asked the Supreme Court to grant EPSA’s petitions to review the appeals court cases, which were issued in 2018.