Tuesday, January 22, 2019

FE Closing Two PA Coal Plants Due to Air Regs

FirstEnergy Corp. announced July 9 it will close two coal-fired generators with 2,080 MW of capacity by October 9 because it would be too expensive to retrofit them to meet federal environmental rules.

Hatfield's Ferry Power Plant (Source: FirstEnergy)

Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant (Source: FirstEnergy)

FirstEnergy spokesman Jennifer Young said the decision to close Hatfield’s Ferry, in Masontown, Pa., and Mitchell, in Courtney, Pa., was based on the cost of complying with current and anticipated environmental regulations during a time of low wholesale power prices.

The closure was the first announced in PJM since the Obama administration’s June 25 announcement that it will draft greenhouse gas regulations for existing generating plants.

Timing Coincidental

Young said the timing of the two announcements was coincidental. The $275 million it would cost to bring the two plants into compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) was what triggered the closing, FirstEnergy officials said.

FirstEnergy’s announcement followed NRG Energy’s decision, announced May 15, to accelerate the closing of five coal-fired units in Pennsylvania. The shutdown of Portland units 1 and 2 (401 MW) will be moved from January 2015 to June 1, 2014, while Titus units 1, 2, and 3 (243 MWs) will close Sept. 1 –  more than a year and a half earlier than originally planned. Both are in the MetEd transmission zone.

Mitchell Power Plant (Source: FirstEnergy)

Mitchell Power Plant (Source: FirstEnergy)

The closing of Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell will eliminate 380 jobs and reduce FirstEnergy’s generating capacity by about 10%. FirstEnergy’s 18,000 MW generating fleet after the deactivations will still be dominated by coal (56%), with big contributions from nuclear (22%), followed by renewables (13%) and gas/oil (9%).

FirstEnergy announced the closing of nine coal plants last year. The company expects to invest approximately $650 million to bring five other coal-fired plants into compliance with MATS: the Bruce Mansfield Plant in Pennsylvania; Harrison, Pleasants and Fort Martin plants in West Virginia, and the Sammis plant in Ohio.

NRG Closures

NRG and GenOn Energy, which merged last year, are idling nine coal-fired plants through 2015.

NRG is closing the Portland plant as part of a settlement with the states of New Jersey and Connecticut over plant’s air emissions. The company cited environmental compliance costs in the closing of the Titus plant. The plants employ 140 workers.

NRG announced June 24 that it will convert two coal-fired plants, Avon Lake in Ohio (732 MW) and New Castle in Pennsylvania (330 MW) to natural gas. The plants had been scheduled for deactivation in April 2015. Although the repowered plants will have the same peak output, their capacity factors will likely drop as they are dispatched as peaking plants, NRG spokesman David Gaier said yesterday.

Gaier said that the company is evaluating whether to convert Portland to natural gas. Titus is too small and unprofitable to be a candidate for repowering, he said.

Non-Utility Generation Closures

PJM also learned recently of the unrelated closing of two small non-utility generators. The Piney Creek NUG (31 MW) in PenElec told PJM June 25 that it had closed April 12. The Koppers NUG (8 MW) in the PPL transmission territory, notified PJM July 1 that it plans to close Sept. 30.

In all, PJM expects the closure of about 13,000 MW of generation through October 2015.

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