Reliability Issues Could Stay Plant Closures
Washington PA Observer Reporter
13 August 2013
By Tara Kinsell, Staff Writer
A temporary stay in the closure of the Hatfield’s Ferry Power
Plant in Greene County and the Mitchell Power Plant in Washington
County could take place if an agreement can be reached between
First Energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and PJM
Interconnection, the Mid-Atlantic electricity grid manager. In
total, about 380 plant employees and generation related positions
are expected to be affected by the closures.
PJM recently conducted a reliability analysis to determine if
closing the two plants could be done without affecting customers
in the Mid-Atlantic electricity grid. The results of that analysis
were released Tuesday.
In a statement by First Energy released in July, the company said,
“The plant deactivations are subject to review for reliability
impacts, if any, by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission
operator that controls the area where they are located.” This
could indicate that the company does plan to work with PJM to
address such reliability issues.
Ray Dotter, spokesman for PJM, said the company found that
potential impacts and upgrades to address those impacts are not
expected to be completed prior to the proposed Oct. 9 closing
Dotter said a letter went out to First Energy last week alerting
it to the potential of such impacts by closing the plants at that
He added that PJM continues to work with affected owners of
transmission companies that use power supplied by these two plants
in identifying the necessary upgrades, expected completion dates,
and temporary operating solutions to mitigate reliability impacts
to the grid.
“PJM has no authority to require plants to continue to operate. We
identify the problems with the transmission system,” Dotter said.
PJM then alerts the company and looks at reaching a short-term
agreement with the owners to keep the plant operating. Dotter said
that ranges typically from months to a couple of years.
“We are not talking anything like five to 10 years,” he said.
However, there could be a cost to continue keeping the plant open
and if that exists, First Energy would be compensated under
federal regulations, according to Dotter.
“Oftentimes, this can be more expensive than implementing
alternative sources of power,” he added.
Dotter said electricity consumers should not be concerned that
they will be left in the dark. “It doesn’t mean if the plant
closes an hour later the lights go off,” he said. “Problems could
develop so there needs to be another solution in place. We can’t
wait until the problem develops.”
He equated it to having bad brakes on an automobile. “You don’t
wait until the brakes stop working to fix the problem,” he said.
Dotter said meeting deadlines for environmental regulations is
just a part of why some plants are closing in Pennsylvania.
“Even without that, there would be a challenge from natural gas
because it is so inexpensive compared to what it used to be. You
have a situation in Pennsylvania where you have natural gas fields
on one side and the coal on the other,” he said. “It used to be
coal, hydro and nuclear energy that were the cheapest. Now you
have wind and natural gas that are more competitive. We’re fuel
neutral at PJM. We legally have to be. It is a matter of the price
they are offering. We take the lowest price.”
PJM Interconnection is responsible for coordinating the movement
of electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of
Columbia. It ensures that there is enough electricity to supply
electricity to more than 61 million people in its territory.
“FirstEnergy’s profit-driven planning, which comes at the expense
of Pennsylvania’s families, is the direct cause of these issues,”
said Tom Schuster, Pennsylvania Campaign Representative for the
“FirstEnergy failed to engage in meaningful planning with the
workers and communities affected by their announcement and acted
irresponsibly by failing to consider cost-effective solutions like
wind, solar, efficiency, energy management and transmission
First Energy was in compliance with federal regulations by
announcing its intention to close the plants with a 90-day notice.