Bankrupt Energy Company Is Deactivating Four Major Power Plants In Coal Country

REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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An energy company in significant financial distress is moving to decommission several power plants in the heart of coal country as the Trump administration works to rescue the industry from imploding.

FirstEnergy notified a regional transmission organization of the company’s plans to deactivate four fossil fuel producing plants in 2021 and 2022. Market distress is forcing the company to retire the Ohio and Pennsylvania plants, FirstEnergy wrote in a statement Wednesday.

“Our decision to retire the fossil-fueled plants was every bit as difficult as the one we made five months ago to deactivate our nuclear assets,” Don Moul, president of FES Generation Companies, said in the statement. “The action in no way reflects on the dedication and work ethic of our employees.”

The plants represent a total of 4,017 megawatts of generating capacity, which is enough to power roughly four million homes. PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization, will determine whether one or more of the units are needed for grid reliability purposes. If so, then FirstEnergy must provide information on how to keep all plants running.

FirstEnergy, an Ohio-based company, announced plans in April to mothball nuclear power plants following massive shortfalls in revenue. The company’s plant in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, lost $90 million in 2017. Nuclear plants have struggled with profitability in the face of the rapidly expanding natural gas industry, which experienced a boom following the advent of hydraulic fracturing.

FirstEnergy filed for bankruptcy in March and is now asking the federal government to step in and keep the plants running, saving thousands of direct and indirect jobs. The company also wants Energy Secretary Rick Perry to initiate a “202-C” grid emergency, which would ultimately force higher prices on customers in Pennsylvania and surrounding communities.

President Donald Trump has taken several measures to prevent mass closures. Reports show he directed the Department of Energy in July to implement two federal laws — the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act — to mandate providers purchase electricity from at-risk facilities, guaranteeing them profits. (RELATED: If Trump Does Nothing, More Nuclear Power Plants Could Shut Down)

Both federal laws were created decades ago and designed for emergency purposes. White House officials have long considered the growing number of early coal and nuclear plant retirements a threat to grid reliability — an opinion that unprofitable plants have long agreed with.

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