First Energy sends a message to Trump in string of coal plant closures

Source: By John Siciliano and Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Ohio-based First Energy announced a string of coal power plant closures  last week, but said it could reverse its decision if the Trump administration takes action.

What does it take to get a bailout? The utility had been lobbying the Trump administration over the last several months to implement a plan to save the plants. Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to develop a plan to save both coal and nuclear plants on June 1. Critics have called the Trump plan a “bailout” for uneconomic power plants that cannot compete in a changing energy market dominated by low-cost natural gas.

The market is failing coal: The utility said in a statement that it “is closing the plants due to a market environment that fails to adequately compensate generators for the resiliency and fuel-security attributes that the plants provide.”

But a fuel-security plan is on Trump’s mind: The president said earlier this month that he was preparing to release what he called a “military plan” to help coal plants. The plan is expected to subsidize the ailing coal units based on a national security argument the White House is developing.

The utility wants a market that values security: “As with nuclear, our fossil-fueled plants face the insurmountable challenge of a market that does not sufficiently value their contribution to the security and flexibility of our power system,” said Don Moul, First Energy’s president of its generation companies and its chief nuclear officer. “The market fails to recognize, for example, the on-site fuel storage capability of coal, which increases the resilience of the grid.”

The message to Trump: The company said that based on the timing of any federal policy action, these decisions could be “reversed or postponed.”