May 24, 2019 / 4:27 PM / 6 months ago

Ohio House committee passes bill to save nuclear power plants

(Reuters) - A committee in Ohio’s House of Representatives voted along party lines to approve a bill to save the state’s two nuclear power reactors from retirement and provide some financial support for a couple of ailing coal plants.

Republicans in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill on Thursday after changing it earlier in the week to provide credit payments to nuclear plants only instead of all zero-carbon emission resources, like wind and solar plants.

The state’s two reactors are at the Davis Besse and Perry power plants on Lake Erie. They are owned by FirstEnergy Inc’s bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions subsidiary.

FirstEnergy Solutions has said it will shut the money-losing reactors in 2020 and 2021 unless they receive some financial support from state or federal programs.

Cheap and ample gas from shale fields like the Marcellus and Utica in Ohio has depressed electricity prices across the country over the past several years, making it uneconomical for generators to keep operating some nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

The current bill reduces the cost of the prior bill to about $1 a month for a residential customer or $190 million a year from 2020 to 2026. That money will go to the nuclear plants.

The prior version of the bill would have cost residential customers about $2.50 a month or $300 million a year with the money going mostly to the nuclear plants but also to other resources that do not produce carbon dioxide emissions, like wind and solar.

Democrats on the House committee opposed the removal of the credit for renewable resources and the speed at which the bill was proceeding through the legislature.

The bill could be voted on by the full House as soon as May 29, according to analysts at Height Capital Markets in Washington.

Height Capital Markets believes the changes will enable the bill to pass the House and Senate and gain Governor Mike DeWine’s support because they reduce consumer costs by removing surcharges and save jobs by keeping the nuclear plants in service.

The new bill would also provide financial support for Ohio Valley Electric Corp’s (OVEC) two coal plants, Kyger Creek in Ohio and Clifty Creek in Indiana.

OVEC’s owners include units of American Electric Power Co Inc, Buckeye Energy Inc, Duke Energy Corp, FirstEnergy, AES Corp, PPL Corp, CenterPoint Energy Inc, according to the company’s website.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Tom Brown

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