March 7, 2019 / 5:32 PM / a month ago

Dominion scrambling for Connecticut utility deals to save Millstone reactors

    March 7 (Reuters) - Dominion Energy Inc       said Thursday
it is working to complete negotiations with Connecticut
utilities for the purchase of electricity from its Millstone
nuclear power plant before a March 15 deadline.
    "There is a March 15 deadline for Dominion to submit a
retirement bid to ISO New England," Dominion spokesman Kenneth
Holt said, noting "We are working to complete negotiations prior
to that date."
    ISO New England operates the power grid in the six-state
region.
    Millstone produces about half of the electricity in
Connecticut and around 98 percent of its carbon-free energy,
making the plant key to meeting the state's aggressive carbon
reduction goals. Over 1,500 people work at Millstone.
            
    Dominion, of Richmond, Virginia, has been saying for years
that Millstone is not economically viable in the current low
power price environment.
    After three years of working with politicians and regulators
on a plan to keep the plant in service, the state in December
selected Millstone for a contract to purchase a little over half
of its output for 10 years.
    The price of that contract, however, was not firm, so
Dominion said it is negotiating with the state and two local
utilities, which are units of Eversource Energy        and
Avangrid Inc        .
    The price for the first three years of the contract is about
equal to the wholesale power price in New England, Dominion
said.
    "That is not an acceptable result. ... In order to ensure
the plant's viability, we must have pricing that recognizes its
energy security, environmental and economic benefits," Dominion
Chief Executive Thomas Farrell told analysts on the company's
fourth-quarter earnings call in February.
    "We are confident that these issues will be resolved in a
manner that provides long-term financial assurance required for
Millstone's continued operation," Farrell said.
    Holt said Dominion has been "ready to negotiate for a month
but there's no incentive for the other utilities to come to the
table. We are meeting face-to-face this week but previously we
have only had meetings over the phone."
    Power prices in New England over the past five years have
been the lowest ever seen, according to Reuters data going back
to 2000, due to increasing use of generators fired with cheap
natural gas from shale formations and renewables like wind and
solar.
    That makes it tough for facilities using other sources of
energy like coal and nuclear to compete.

    
 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
  
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