In its request for proposals for zero carbon energy released Tuesday evening, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) said it would let energy producers try to convince regulators they're "at risk" of closure before 2022. That could boost Millstone's proposals, as they'll be scored on environmental and grid benefits along with price.
DEEP's decision means as early as 2019, Millstone could potentially gain an advantage over facilities competing in the RFP, which is open to hydropower, solar and wind producers. Just a few weeks ago, DEEP said it wouldn't consider facilities "at risk" until 2023, igniting outcry from lawmakers and warnings from plant owner Dominion Energy that without full consideration of Millstone's benefits in the zero carbon market next year, the plant could face premature closure in a wholesale market dominated by natural gas.
Regulators created the "at risk" designation and let Millstone compete in the zero carbon RFP after state-hired consultants said premature Millstone closure would spark heavy job losses, grid unreliability and spikes in greenhouse gas emissions from replacement power sources. Millstone's two operating units are licensed until 2035 and 2045.
Dominion in May submitted a petition for "at risk" treatment with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), which included a full accounting of Millstone's audited financials. PURA is the agency that regulates the rates and services of utilities and telecommunications companies in the state.
PURA signaled in July that Millstone could be "at risk" earlier than DEEP believed. PURA urged DEEP to "consider permitting more flexibility in its bidding and evaluation requirements" and to evaluate "on a case-by-case basis ... whether and when a resource is 'at risk.'" Fuel security and economic impact were also among the factors weighed by regulators evaluating proposals from "at risk" facilities.
By October, PURA must determine whether confidential financial data turned over by Dominion proves Millstone is in financial peril.
DEEP says it will pick winners among zero carbon companies by late 2018 or early 2019. PURA will approve final contracts between energy producers and utilities by spring of 2019.
DEEP said it will hold a bidders' conference on Monday, Aug. 13, in New Britain. Proposals are due to DEEP by Sept. 14. (The Day, 7/31/2018)