Exelon executives must feel like former Exelon CEO John Rowe is kind of like the crazy uncle who has to be invited to the party even though whenever he opens his mouth to speak the entire room will cringe.
The problem for Exelon is that Rowe isn’t crazy, and he has been speaking out a lot, especially in the past week.
Last Friday, we linked to one interview he gave recently where he said he would have been quicker to close Exelon’s uneconomic reactors than the current Exelon regime–which still hasn’t closed them and is still floundering around trying to get someone, anyone, to order ratepayers to bail them out. So far, unsuccessfully.
Yesterday, E&E Publishing ran another interview with Rowe, which expands on his thoughts and surely caused unpleasant abdominal pains and teeth-gnashing in Exelon’s executive suite and boardroom. You see, Rowe is one of those retired execs whose stature has only grown since he left the company and his thoughts carry weight, especially in Illinois. And he’s still got some clout, perhaps more than Exelon itself these days: for example, he’s actually friends with Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, unlike the current Exelon suits.
So here’s what Rowe said about Exelon’s uneconomic reactors:
I’m living in a fairy world because I don’t have the numbers and I’m not responsible for them anymore. But in my opinion, you shut those three plants down. You say they have become uneconomic just like some old coal plants are uneconomic. And in a world that’s driven by unfriendly market prices and unfriendly public policy, you shut them down.
He went on to say that his former colleagues at Exelon “have to figure this out for themselves,” adding:
I love nuclear power plants. For [current Exelon CEO] Chris Crane, it’s his life. He would probably go further to keep a plant running than I would go. I don’t believe there’s anything divine about markets, but I believe they’re pretty important….
In some ways, I believe the only way a utility has credibility in saying that something isn’t making any money is if it’s actually willing to shut it down. If I were there, I think I’d have shut the New Jersey plant [Oyster Creek] down first. It’s the oldest, it’s the smallest, and it would have given credibility to what Exelon is saying about the other four. Nuclear power plants have been shut down before around the country.
As for the idea that EPA’s Clean Power Plan should encourage nuclear power:
…I don’t think it’s EPA’s job to encourage a new nuclear world. I think that would be one of the most expensive solutions it could pursue.
Now, before you get the idea that Rowe has become some kind of green or anti-nuclear crusader, he’s not. At all. He loves nuclear power and thinks EPA should encourage existing reactors. And while he supports renewables, he’s a bit skeptical about them, and does not support Renewable Energy Standards nor subsidizing them the way nuclear power has been subsidized for decades.
But Rowe, unlike the current short-sighted and economically-challenged management at Exelon, understands electricity markets and finances and, also unlike Exelon’s current management, is not afflicted with the kind of greed mentality that insists they should get whatever they want just because they want it. Rowe understands that is not how the world works. Rather than trying to force the world to adapt to Exelon, as the current regime is attempting, Rowe’s history was one of trying to steer Exelon through the real world that was presented.
I was cleaning out some old boxes the other day and came across a brief Nuclear Monitor piece I wrote in 1998–before Exelon even existed. At the time, Rowe was CEO of Unicom, the parent company of Illinois’ Commonwealth Edison which eventually became part of Exelon. Rowe had announced that Unicom was selling off its coal plants to raise needed cash, but was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t sell the company’s nuclear reactors instead. Why? Because, Rowe said, nobody would buy them.
The more things change….
July 28, 2015
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