Recent Cold Spell Cited In Debate About Millstone's Future

Jan 10, 2018

A decision that could change the way Connecticut’s only nuclear plant sells its power is expected in the coming weeks. Now, dozens of legislators are using the state’s recent cold snap as evidence the Millstone Power Station needs to stay online.

Millstone is looking for approval to sell its power alongside certain renewables like solar and wind.

It says the change is needed to allow the industry to compete against relatively cheap natural gas.

But in a letter to state officials, dozens of legislators cautioned against an overreliance on that fuel. Calling natural gas “volatile,” lawmakers said  the recent extreme cold illustrates how demand can congest the pipes moving gas around, and result in “quick and dramatic price spikes.”

Millstone -- a baseload generator that’s basically always on -- is insulated from such instability, the legislators wrote.

Millstone made a similar argument in a letter to state regulators this week.

“Cheap natural gas is an attractive option for those seeking to build electric plants in New England since prices have been so low,” the legislators wrote. “While long periods of cheap natural gas appear good for customers, they also have the impact of forcing the premature shutdown of non-gas baseload resources such as nuclear.”

Vermont Yankee ceased operations in 2014. And the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass. is expected to retire in May 2019.

Meanwhile, a preliminary report from state energy officials in December concluded Connecticut’s Millstone is expected to remain profitable through 2035.

In its recent letter, Millstone says that assessment “dramatically” underestimated the station’s real costs.

But environmental groups say letting the station change the way it sells its power could dampen the development of renewable resources like solar and wind.

“Allowing Millsone to compete with up-and-coming renewable technologies like wind and solar power would unfairly force CT ratepayers to foot the bill for an antiquated, and yet highly profitable power source,” wrote Louis Burch with Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

The state is expected to issue its decision by February 1.