PJM says FirstEnergy can close power plants Oct. 29 without effecting grid reliability

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FirstEnergy will be able to close its Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell power stations Oct. 9, as the company planned, without jeopardizing transmission system reliability, according to an analysis completed by PJM Interconnection.


PJM, which ensures the reliability of the electrical grid, informed FirstEnergy of the conclusions of its study in a letter to FirstEnergy dated Sept. 19, said Paula DuPont-Kidd, PJM spokeswoman.


PJM’s review indicates First Energy will be able to deactivate the plants Oct. 9.


“The conclusion of the study is that there are no system reliability problems that will occur as a result of them closing the plants at that time,” DuPont-Kidd said.


PJM had initially said potential impacts of the closings to system reliability might not be able to be addressed by FirstEnergy prior to the proposed closing date.


However, at a state Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee hearing Sept. 13, a PJM official said further review indicated the need to keep the plants open was very limited though the final analysis was then incomplete.


The letter to FirstEnergy indicated while there are impacts to the transmission system as a result of the retirement of the generating units, those impacts can be handled by transmission upgrades and implementation of temporary operating measures.


The necessary operating measures and upgrades are now in place or are in the works to address these issues, DuPont-Kidd said.


FirstEnergy announced in July that it would close Hatfield’s Ferry, a 1,710-megawatt plant in Greene County, and Mitchell, a 370- megawatt plant in Washington County, eliminating the jobs of 380 employees.


The company said the decision was based on weak demand for electricity, low electricity prices and the costs of bringing the plants into compliance with environmental regulations.


FirstEnergy still plans to close the two plants Oct. 9, Jennifer Young, a company spokeswoman, said Monday. It has no intention of reopening the plants later, which would require upgrading the plants’ environmental equipment to comply with current regulations, she said.


Though mention was made about possible buyers for the plants at the Sept. 13 hearing, Young said FirstEnergy has not been approached by any prospective buyers.


PJM noted the closing of Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell are part of a massive fuel shift under way across the country.


Coal-fired generation faces competitive challenges from low natural gas prices resulting from an abundance of shale gas, the cost of complying with environmental regulations, incentives for renewable generation and slow growth in the demand for electricity, it said.


Members of the Utility Workers Union of America, which represents plant employees, and local elected officials, including state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, and state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, attempted to stop the closing.


“I’m really disappointed with PJM especially considering that only a month ago they said closing the plants would have a negative impact,” Snyder said.


“I don’t know how things could have changed so dramatically.”


Snyder said she believes there will be more problems with power outages if the plants are closed. “It has to have an effect on the grid,” she said.


Solobay also said he was disappointed in the decision. “We were hoping PJM would recognize the need and keep at least Hatfield’s, if not both plants open, to ensure service and reliability,” he said.


Solobay said he hoped to learn this week the identity of the company the union has indicated might be interested in buying the plants.


Efforts to prevent the closing would continue.


“It’s not done until it’s done,” he said.


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