July 17, 2019 / 3:16 PM / 5 months ago

Ohio Senate to vote on bill to save state's nuclear power plants

    July 17 (Reuters) - The Ohio Senate will likely pass a bill
on Wednesday that will create subsidies to avoid the early
shutdown of the state's two nuclear power reactors, according to
analysts and those watching the legislation.
    The two reactors in Ohio - Davis Besse and Perry - are owned
by FirstEnergy Solutions, which has said it would shut the
money-losing plants in 2020 and 2021 unless the state provides
some financial assistance to keep them operating.
    FirstEnergy Solutions is a bankrupt unit of Ohio power
company FirstEnergy Corp       .
    Analysts said the Senate version of the nuclear bill, House
Bill 6 (HB6), would likely pass the Senate Energy and Public
Utilities and the Senate Rules and Reference Committees before
going to the full Senate for a vote.
    "If the Senate passes HB6 later today as expected, the bill
will go over to the House for a concurrence vote," said Josh
Price, senior analyst at Height Capital Markets, noting the
state House has an "if needed" session scheduled for Thursday if
members need more time to debate the Senate changes to the bill.
HB6 passed the House in May.             
    The current version of the bill would provide an overall
reduction in consumer power rates by weakening the state's
renewable and energy efficiency goals even though FirstEnergy
Solutions would receive an estimated $150 million a year from
2020-2026 to keep its reactors in service.
    Officials at FirstEnergy Solutions had no comment at this
time. The company has said it needed the bill to pass by July 17
to avoid shutting the Davis Besse reactor next spring.
    "We expect the legislature will hit this deadline and send
the bill to Governor Mike DeWine's desk this week," said Price
at Height Capital Markets.
    FirstEnergy Solutions has warned that shutting the reactors
could result in the loss of 4,300 jobs.             
    On Monday, U.S. electric generator LS Power warned it would
be forced to terminate development of an expansion of its Troy
natural gas-fired power plant in Ohio if the state passes
legislation to subsidize nuclear energy.             
    LS Power said the expansion of the Troy plant would create
hundreds of jobs during construction and about 20 permanent
positions. Analysts, however, said that was likely not enough to
offset legislators' concerns about the potential loss of
thousands of jobs if the reactors shut.
    Gas-fired plants would likely make more money if the
reactors shut because they would operate more often.

 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino
Editing by Susan Thomas)
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