Solar, Wind, Nuclear Lead Connecticut Energy Auction

The state of Connecticut wants to clean up its electrical energy act by getting its power from sources that do not add more carbon emissions to the atmosphere. During the past six months, it received over 100 bids and has selected 12 finalists. Nine of the winners are from solar power plant operators — 3 in Connecticut and 6 from outside the state. Two of the solar power bids include battery storage.

A proposal for 100 MW of wind energy from Ørsted US Offshore Wind also got approval. The company was previously awarded a contract for 200 MW of offshore wind in June. “Offshore wind is fast becoming a centerpiece of Connecticut’s renewable energy future,” said Jeffrey Grybowski, who is co-chief executive of Ørsted. The last two winning bids came from nuclear power plants — Millstone in Connecticut and Seabrook in New Hampshire.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Rob Klee, the head of the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, emphasized the zero carbon nature of all the successful bidders, saying the choices will help limit climate change. “Make no mistake, we are facing a climate crisis with the future of the planet is at stake,” Malloy told the press. “Should we fail to do so, we will fail to prevent the catastrophic outcomes that will result from climate change.”

Is nuclear power renewable? No. Is it zero carbon? Yes, if you choose to ignore the emissions that go into building any nuclear power facility, which needs gigatons of concrete to protect the citizenry from catastrophe in the event of a meltdown. The inclusion of power from the two nuclear facilities came as a surprise to many environmentalists but Klee defended the selection by saying using nuclear power now will give the state more time to add more wind and solar power in the future.

“We remain committed to keeping this valuable zero carbon resource, provided that it is affordable, as we work toward long-term replacement through smart investments in offshore wind and solar paired with grid-scale storage,” he said.

Claire Coleman, a climate and energy attorney with Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said her organization is “still very concerned that as a whole, these RFP choices don’t put Connecticut on the road to a clean energy economy. The future is off-shore wind, solar, geothermal, and smart strategies for efficiency and energy storage, but the small investments in these newer resources compared to the heavy investment in nuclear largely don’t reflect that,” she said.

Joel Gordes, an energy industry consultant, said selecting Millstone as one of the winning bidders amounts to a subsidization of the aging nuclear plant. “The older these plants get, the more expensive they will become to maintain.” He suggested the Dominion Energy, which owns the Millstone facility, will be back asking to renegotiate its contract in the future, claiming its costs have gone up.

Dominion has engaged in a long and so far successful campaign to keep the Millstone plant in operation. One of its arguments to state legislators and officials is that it needs new contracts to avoid closing the facility, which would put 1,500 Connecticut residents out of work. The new contract is for half of its 2,100 MW capacity over 10 years.

Seabrook’s owner has been warning for year it may be forced to shutter the plant. It submitted a bid of just 3.3 cents per kWh, a price that was just too good for Connecticut officials to ignore. The inclusion of the two nuclear energy bids may give some people indigestion but at least there are no new coal or gas fired generating stations included in Connecticut’s future energy mix. Give thanks for small favors.