First Energy Files Bankruptcy / by Norris McDonald

FirstEnergy has placed its coal and nuclear generation units under chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Two days before FirstEnergy's bankruptcy filing, the company petitioned the Department of Energy (DOE) for an emergency bailout, citing concerns abou reliability.   The petition could reinvigorate a debate started by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who  last year to change how coal and nuclear plants are compensated for their power. The rule was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC), which said that there was not enough evidence to justify changing how coal and nuclear are compensated.

In FirstEnergy's petition, it asked the DOE to require East Coast grid manager PJM to buy power from its coal and nuclear plants and to have PJM compensate those plants for "the full benefits they provide to energy markets and the public at large." That language mirrors the language of the rule Perry proposed in 2017, which would have allowed any coal or nuclear plant with more than 90 days of fuel onsite to seek “full recovery of costs.”

Although FERC denied Perry's proposed rule in January, FirstEnergy is banking that Perry, and by extension the Trump administration, would be willing to issue an emergency order to keep its plants running under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act. According to the DOE, that rule is meant to ensure grid operations during emergencies.  (ARSTechnica, 4/1/2018)