Language matters. When a top Exelon exec, chief strategy officer Bill Von Hoene, said this week that the giant nuclear utility doesn’t “intend” to close any of its nuclear reactors anytime soon, you can be sure he was being careful with his language.
“We do not want to, and we don’t intend to close plants,” Bill Von Hoene, Exelon’s chief strategy officer, said. “We have no plans to do that now.”
That’s pretty far short of a denial that they won’t close any of their reactors, however.
No nuclear utility has ever “intended” to close a reactor early. The utilities that closed reactors last year did so not because they wanted to, but because their continued operation had become irrational.
Von Hoene admitted that–as has been well-reported in GreenWorld and elsewhere–some of Exelon’s reactors are in trouble: “Von Hoene acknowledged that relatively low prices for electricity, sluggish demand and competition from renewable energy put some of Exelon’s nuclear plants at risk of closing.”
Exelon needs a ratepayer and/or taxpayer bailout, or, in their obfuscatory language, “regulatory or legislative relief” to avoid closing reactors.
The company also needs approval of its proposed merger with the Washington, DC area utility Pepco. But that approval is a long way off, and is by no means certain. Regulators in both Washington, DC and Maryland are going to be looking at the idea closely–and citizens groups in both jurisdictions are mobilizing to block any such merger. In Maryland, for example, approval of the merger would mean some 80% of the state’s electricity customers would be buying power from one utility–the out-of-state Exelon. That certainly isn’t the intent of Maryland’s existing electricity deregulation law, which is designed to encourage competition in the electric sector, not stifle it.
Nor does Exelon, with its outright hostility to wind power (it was the first and only utility to get kicked out of the American Wind Energy Association for its anti-wind stance) and its blatant lack of interest in solar power, seem the ideal company to would lead the way in meeting Maryland’s popular renewable energy standards and energy efficiency programs.
Merger approval is not going to be a slam dunk for Exelon in either DC or Maryland.
And Exelon’s “intent” is not likely to square with the reality the company will face over the next 18 months.
July 11, 2014
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