Millstone is looking for deeper pockets, not bigger markets

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Millstone II nuclear power plant.

Connecticut is at a crossroads. Now more than ever, we face a time when economic uncertainty abounds, energy costs are high, and public dollars for our seniors, schools, and underserved are scarce.

But Dominion Resources, Inc., the Virginia-based Fortune 500 company that owns the Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, wants a payout – courtesy of Connecticut consumers.

Giving Millstone a payout would be wrong for several reasons. First and foremost, despite Millstone’s claims to be in dire financial straits, it has not provided any evidence that it needs assistance, nor has the company indicated that Millstone is at risk of closing. Dominion refuses to open its books, but still insists it needs a generous check from Connecticut residents to stay afloat. This is wrong, and raises alarming questions about Dominion’s motives.

Millstone’s strong-arm tactics are even more troubling when you consider that the plant is about to get a raise in the form of ratepayer-funded “capacity payments.” Starting on June 1, electricity consumers will be paying an additional $98 million per year to make sure Millstone is available to supply power, with that payment increasing by $64 million starting in 2018. Millstone may not be seeing exorbitant profits as it once did, and may not be earning as much as its highly profitable parent company would like to see, but all evidence points to Millstone as a healthy, money-making asset for Dominion’s shareholders.

Opposition to a Millstone payout isn’t an isolated sentiment. There is a growing chorus of opponents to Millstone’s demand, including power producers like Calpine, Dynegy, NRG and the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA); business groups like the Connecticut Industrial Energy Consumers; and environmental and consumer groups – most notably, the AARP and its 600,000 Connecticut members.

Tipping the scales for one company that operates in a competitive regional power market puts other firms and their employees at risk. Millstone says it simply “wants an opportunity to compete” – but that is precisely the opportunity they already have. While the company claims it is not asking for a ‘subsidy,’ there is no other way to describe a situation in which one of the nation’s largest corporations asks the government to step in to guarantee its profits. Dominion is demanding a corporate handout – straight from consumers’ pockets.

Connecticut’s electricity rates are already some of the highest in the nation, posing a burden for families and deterrent for businesses. Every day, we read about jobs and employers leaving the state because of high costs, and this payout will only send more of them packing. Millstone wants you to believe in magic – that giving them more money will somehow reduce your electric bill. The truth is, caving in to Millstone is going to cost you money, and these dollars will go to their corporate shareholders.

The facts are simple: Millstone refuses to prove that it is actually losing money or is in danger of closing, and its parent company continually refuses to open up its books. The company also won’t acknowledge that Millstone is obligated to run until at least 2021 under rules governing the regional power market. Should Millstone desire to close, it would need to obtain approval from the regional grid operator, ISO-New England, which would assess the plant’s role in assuring system reliability and then designate payments to keep the plant operational if needed.

Millstone is an important energy resource for the entire New England region. No one questions that. But what is worth questioning is whether Connecticut electricity ratepayers should bear the sole burden of giving the plant significant raises every year for the foreseeable future.

If there’s an argument for why they should, Dominion can make that case – but I believe we must consider the facts (and consumers) first.

John Shelk is President and CEO of the Electric Power Supply Association.

 

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