Ohio legislators to hear bill to save nuclear power plants

(Reuters) - A House of Representatives subcommittee in Ohio will hear a clean energy bill on Wednesday designed to save the state’s two nuclear power plants from retirement and encourage the building of new renewable facilities.

FILE PHOTO: The Davis Beese nuclear power station cooling tower and security post is seen near Oak Harbor, Ohio February 11, 2010. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk/File Photo

The two reactors at the Davis Besse and Perry power stations on Lake Erie are owned by FirstEnergy Corp’s bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions unit, which said it would shut the money-losing reactors in 2020 and 2021 unless they start receiving some financial support from state or federal programs.

Two Republican Representatives - Jamie Callender and Shane Wilkin - introduced the Ohio clean energy bill - House Bill 6 - on Friday.

Analysts at Height Capital Markets in Washington said they “expect the bill to move swiftly in the House, despite possible opposition from the gas industry.”

Ohio is one of the biggest and fastest growing U.S. natural gas producers.

Cheap and ample gas from shale fields like the Marcellus and Utica in Ohio has depressed electricity prices across the country over the past several years, making it uneconomical for generators to continue operating some nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

The Ohio bill offers a $9.25 per megawatt credit for roughly 30 million megawatt hours of “clean” generation, which would cost ratepayers about $300 million per year. One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes.

That money would go to qualifying clean energy resources, like nuclear reactors, which produce no carbon emissions, and wind and solar plants.

Height Capital noted some money might also be available to the state’s coal plants if they burn more gas or convert to gas as their primary fuel. Burning gas produces about half the carbon emissions as coal.

In 2018, Ohio got about 47 percent of its power generation from coal, 34 percent from gas, 15 percent from nuclear, 3 percent from renewables and 1 percent from other fuels like oil.

“We believe the House is largely stacked in favor of the bill, while the Senate holds their breath to see how well the new measure is received,” Height Capital said.

In addition to Ohio, Pennsylvania politicians are also considering rules to help its reactors, and officials in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration are also looking at programs to keep nuclear and coal plants operating longer.

Four states - New York, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey - already provide subsidies to keep their nuclear plants in service to support clean energy policies.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Bernadette Baum