Even though it wasn’t again shut out of a power-selling auction, the future of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant remains cloudy, its owner says.
The economic viability of TMI became the subject of speculation in August when electricity being sold by the Dauphin County plant was not purchased at a special capacity auction held by PJM, the organization that coordinates the movement of power in all or parts of 13 states.
Exelon has other avenues for selling its power wholesale but it was a blow to owner Exelon, which is already considering closing two of its nuclear plants in Illinois. Neither of those plants sold their power at the capacity auction, either.
At a second recent auction by PJM, TMI’s power was purchased. Still, Exelon Corp. officials say the Dauphin County plant’s future remains cloudy.
“The latest capacity market reforms and auction results are encouraging, as they begin to properly recognize the reliability benefits of nuclear power,” said Exelon in a statement to LNP.
“But it's important to remember that capacity revenue is only one factor in a plant's long-term profitability, and participation in a capacity auction does not guarantee profits. Even with these results, the TMI plant remains economically challenged, as evidenced by its failure to clear in the 2018-19 auction.
“Going forward, we will continue to watch market developments and evaluate plant economics to inform our decision about the future operation of TMI.”
In a second PJM auction in August for guaranteed power for 2017-2018, both TMI and Exelon’s two troubled nuclear plants in Illinois sold their power.
That led Exelon to say it would defer any decisions about the future operations of its Quad Cities and Byron nuclear plants in Illinois for one year.
The two plants, as well as TMI, would be selling power at PJM’s 2019-2020 capacity auction next year, according to Exelon spokesman Paul Elsberg.
As it is doing in Illinois, Exelon said it would be working with Pennsylvania officials to create new regulations that should give special consideration to power from nuclear plants since it is electricity produced free of carbon pollution that is under attack because of its contribution to global warming.
In Illinois, the headquarters of Exelon, a legislative bill is being considered that would require the state’s utilities to buy 70 percent of their power from “low carbon” sources, such as that generated by nuclear plants.
The utilities could offset that cost by charging ratepayers with a surcharge of up to 2 percent.
Cheaper power is coming from power plants running on natural gas and power produced by subsidized wind energy.
“What is clear is that without TMI, it will be more difficult and expensive for Pennsylvania to meet the carbon reduction goals outlined in EPA's Clean Power Plan,” Exelon said it its latest statement Tuesday.
“For this and other reasons, it remains imperative that we continue to work toward policies in Pennsylvania and elsewhere that recognize nuclear for its zero-carbon benefits.”
TMI’s operating license runs until 2034.