PJM capacity auction shows First Energy’s nuclear plants aren’t needed

FirstEnergy critics say PJM auction shows its nuclear plants aren’t needed

The bankrupt company’s three Ohio nuclear plants failed to clear PJM’s capacity auction despite higher prices.

The failure of FirstEnergy Solutions’ nuclear power plants to clear a regional capacity auction supports the case for closing them, critics said.

Regional grid operator PJM announced the results of its 2021-2022 capacity auction last week. While FirstEnergy Solutions groused about the results, others expressed vindication in the rejection of its three nuclear plants.

“The recent PJM capacity market auction indicates how extremely uncompetitive the FES nuclear plants are today,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

FirstEnergy Solutions in a statement called the results “as unfortunate as they are unsurprising.” The company announced on March 28 plans to close the power plants within three years, but was required to offer them into the capacity auction because it didn’t announce the closures sooner.

The annual PJM capacity auction aims to ensure that enough electricity will be available to cover projected peak needs plus a margin of safety for the next three years. Generators submit a price per megawatt for capacity they can guarantee, and any at or below the clearing price are accepted.

This year’s clearing price for FirstEnergy’s Ohio service zone: $171.33 per megawatt-day. Bids at or below that amount cleared the auction.

FirstEnergy Solutions’ inability to clear the auction hasn’t stopped it from continuing to seek subsidies that might allow it to continue operating the plants. “We will continue to seek legislative and regulatory relief at the state and federal levels — relief that recognizes the critical but uncompensated contribution that our plants make to the reliability and resilience of the regional grid,” said Thomas Mulligan, the company’s outside media relations consultant and spokesperson.

That comment tracks with remarks that FirstEnergy President and CEO Chuck Jones made last month when the company released its first quarter earnings.

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