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Dominion Energy : Opponents of Millstone aid plan maintain plant owner won't pay fines to close early

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10/13/2017 | 04:49 am

Oct. 13--Opponents of efforts to allow the Millstone nuclear power plant to compete in Connecticut's renewable energy procurement market say a new report shows the owner of the facility would face fines of $680 million to $1 billion if it were to close before 2021.

A spokesman for the Stop the Millstone Payout Coalition, a group made up of rival energy companies, said the size of the fines associated with an early shutdown of the Waterford-based nuclear power plant is an indication that Dominion Energy, Millstone's owner, is bluffing about threats to close the facility if it doesn't get what it wants. The report detailing the fines was produced by energy research firm Energyzt Advisors on behalf of the group.

"There is simply no way that Dominion is going to unnecessarily fork over $1 billion to close the most profitable nuclear plant in the United States," Matt Fossen, a spokesman for the Stop the Millstone Payout Coalition, said in a statement. "To put things in perspective, those penalties alone would cost nearly as much as Dominion paid for Millstone in the first place."

Dominion purchased Millstone from Northeast Utilities for $1.3 billion in 2000.

The Stop the Millstone Payout Coalition contends Dominion does not need access to Connecticut's renewable energy market because the power plant is already highly profitable.

"If the facts were on their side, Millstone would be working with the state to find a solution," Fossen said. "Instead, they're making empty threats that basic math says they will never execute. Connecticut lawmakers need to understand that propping up Millstone now will only hurt ratepayers and give a windfall payout to a company that cannot demonstrate any economic need."

But a spokesman for Dominion Energy said opponents of the company's efforts are backtracking on statements they had previously made about the power plant's continued operation.

"For months, the companies behind Stop The Millstone Payout have said that it would be impossible for Millstone to shutdown prior to 2022 because of obligations to ISO New England and the market," Ken Holt, a company spokesman, said in a statement. "Now it appears that they agree with what Dominion Energy has maintained all along, that in fact Millstone can be shut down early and the obligations to ISO New England can be met by transferring them to another party or paying a penalty."

Holt said Dominion officials will continue "working with the Connecticut Legislature to ensure that Millstone continues to operate, generating reliable, carbon-free electricity while preserving the 1,500 jobs it provides in Connecticut."

"If that doesn't happen, we will make a business decision as to what our next step will be," he said.

Holt did not directly address whether the company would be willing to pay the early closure fines in order to get out of its obligations to ISO-New England. Officials with the regional electric grid operator did not return phone calls from the New Haven Register seeking additional details about the early closure fines.

Holt would not comment on whether Dominion Energy was willing to negotiate with state officials over details of how Millstone might ultimately be shutdown.

Officials of Entergy, the New Orleans-based utility company that operates the Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan, N.Y., announced in January they had reached a deal with New York State officials to implement a phased in closure of the facility. One of the two remaining reactors at the plant will be shut down by April 30, 2020 with the second unit to close a year later.

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