Coal, Executive Insight, Generation

FirstEnergy coal power plants deactivated before MATS deadline

Five FirstEnergy coal-fired units in Ohio have been deactivated so far in April, up until the issuance of an April 16 version of PJM Interconnection’s unit deactivation list.

The list, according to GenerationHub, does not actually identify the involved power plant owner. However, FirstEnergy’s plans to deactivate these units around the time of the April 16 initial compliance deadline under the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have been known for months.

The deactivated FirstEnergy Ohio units are:

·      Ashtabula Unit 5, 244 MW, deactivated on April 11;

·      Eastlake Unit 1, 132 MW, April 9;

·      Eastlake Unit 2, 132 MW, April 6;

·      Eastlake Unit 3, 132 MW, April 10; and

·      Lake Shore 18, 245 MW, April 13.

FirstEnergy’s Feb. 17 annual Form 10-K report said the coal plant retirements due to MATS: “As of September 1, 2012, Albright, Armstrong, Bay Shore Units 2-4, Eastlake Units 4-5, R. Paul Smith, Rivesville and Willow Island were deactivated. FG entered into [reliability must-run] arrangements with PJM for Eastlake Units 1-3, Ashtabula Unit 5 and Lake Shore Unit 18 through the spring of 2015, when they are scheduled to be deactivated.

In February 2014, PJM notified [FirstEnergy Generation] that Eastlake Units 1-3 and Lake Shore Unit 18 will be released from RMR status as of September 15, 2014. FG intends to operate the plants through April 2015, subject to market conditions. As of October 9, 2013, the Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell stations were also deactivated.”

There was one more coal unit deactivation so far in April in the PJM region, as mentioned on the PJM list of April 16. That was of NRG Energy’s Will County Unit 3 (251 MW) in Illinois, which was deactivated on April 15. Said NRG in its Feb. 27 annual Form 10-K about coal plant compliance planning: “NRG plans to add natural gas capabilities at its Avon Lake, New Castle, Shawville, Joliet, Dunkirk, and Big Cajun II facilities and intends to convert the coal units at Portland to ultra-low sulfur diesel in 2016. NRG ceased burning coal at Portland in 2014 and plans to cease burning coal at Will County Unit 3 in 2015.”

Notable is that deactivations are not officially retirements, but the odds of a deactivated unit being returned to operation short of a coal-to-gas conversion project are pretty long. Also, thousands more MWs of coal-fired capacity in PJM will be deactivated soon. For example, American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) has several coal plants in the region that it plans to shut by June 1 of this year, also largely due to MATS.