Exelon nuclear plants fail to clear PJM auction, may close

Exelon Quad Cities sign

Exelon Corp. said its Quad Cities nuclear power plant and Three Mile nuclear plant did not clear the PJM Interconnection's capacity auction for the 2019-2020 planning year, which makes it possible the Quad Cities nuclear plant could close due to its electricity being too expensive.

This is the second year in a row Three Mile Island 1 has not cleared PJM's capacity auction. The power plant is slated to generate power through May 2018, but Exelon says it faces continued economic challenges.

Exelon is one of the top utility owners of nuclear power plants in the U.S. and the owner of 11 nuclear units in Illinois. The utility company said in May that it would shut down the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear plants if they did not clear the capacity auction and if the Next Generation Energy Plan is not passed during the spring Illinois legislative session scheduled to end May 31.

The two plants lost a combined $800 million in the past seven years, but a study commissioned by the state found that shutting down the two plants would cause wholesale energy prices to increase by $439 million to $645 million annually in the region. The utility said the plants could shut down in June 2017 for Clinton, and June 2018 for Quad Cities.

Clinton operates in the MISO market. While the plant did clear MISO’s recent one-year forward capacity auction, it will not receive enough revenue to avoid continued losses. The energy plan includes a zero emission standard that would specifically target at-risk nuclear plants, and it would also nearly double energy efficiency programs and jumpstart solar development with rebates and $140 million per year in new funding.

Exelon’s other nuclear plants in the PJM cleared the auction with the exception of Oyster Creek in New Jersey, which is set to close in 2019 and did not participate. A portion of the Byron plant in Illinois also did not clear the auction and it is committed to operate through May 2020.

Capacity auctions are held annually by grid operator PJM to ensure enough power generation resources are available to meet demand in its region covering all or part of 13 states and the District of Columbia. The auction results take effect June 2019.

Editor's note: The staff of Power Engineering magazine contributed to this report.

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