May 24, 2018 /
By Aaron Larson
A bill that would have provided more cost-recovery certainty for Xcel Energy’s two Minnesota nuclear plants didn’t get through the state House of Representatives prior to the legislative session ending on May 20, effectively killing the measure.
The bill would have allowed Xcel to submit proposals to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) designating each of its nuclear plants—the dual-unit Prairie Island station and the single-unit Monticello plant—as carbon-reduction facilities. As part of the process, the company would have included a proposed statement of the total expected costs, including but not limited to capital investments and operation and maintenance costs associated with the facility’s operation.
The MPUC would then have been required to approve or reject the total expected costs within 10 months of the filing date. The solution would have given Xcel the ability to recover a facility’s total costs outside of a general rate case proceeding. Proponents of the legislation suggested that it would have given Xcel more certainty than it currently has concerning cost recovery.
The Minnesota Senate passed the bill by a vote of 37–29 on May 14. Yet, there were plenty of groups opposed to the legislation, including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota, renewable energy advocacy group Fresh Energy, and several large industrial customers. Many of the challengers felt the measure weakened the authority of the MPUC and would cost customers more money in the long run. The bill was added to the House calendar for the final day of the session, but it did not receive its scheduled vote.
Although the Minnesota bill did not provide direct subsidies to help support Xcel’s nuclear plants, several other states have passed policies giving nuclear plant owners financial benefits. New York approved its Clean Energy Standard on August 1, 2016, and Illinois passed its Future Energy Jobs bill a few months later; both measures offer subsidies to help struggling nuclear plants.
On October 31, 2017, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill allowing state energy officials to modify rules, permitting Dominion Energy to sell up to 75% of output from its Millstone nuclear plant in a competitive solicitation with other zero-carbon resources.
On Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that establishes a zero-emissions certificate program, which will reportedly provide his state’s nuclear power plants that qualify with up to $300 million a year in ratepayer subsidies. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio continue to battle over measures designed to support nuclear plants within their borders.