July 23, 2019 / 4:43 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 2-Ohio governor signs bill to save nuclear power plants

 (Updates with governor signing bill)
    July 23 (Reuters) - Ohio's governor signed a bill on Tuesday
to create subsidies to avoid the early shutdown of the state's
two nuclear power reactors, according to analysts tracking the
legislation.
    The two reactors - Davis-Besse and Perry - are owned by
FirstEnergy Solutions, which has said it would shut the
money-losing plants in 2020 and 2021 unless the state provides
some financial assistance.
    FirstEnergy Solutions is a bankrupt unit of Ohio power
company FirstEnergy Corp       . FirstEnergy Solutions said
shutting the reactors could result in the loss of 4,300 jobs. A
nuclear industry group said the units provided about 90% of the
state's clean - carbon-free - power.
    Earlier on Tuesday, Ohio's Republican-controlled House of
Representatives gave final legislative approval to the measure.
Republican Governor Mike DeWine had expressed support for the
legislation.              The governor's office could not
immediately be reached for comment.
    The new law will provide an overall reduction in consumer
power rates by weakening the state's renewable and energy
efficiency goals even though FirstEnergy Solutions would receive
an estimated $150 million a year during the 2021-2027 period to
keep its reactors in service
    Several environmental groups opposed the measure, citing the
weakened renewable energy goals. They are considering options
including a possible referendum to try to get voters to overturn
the new law. 
    "Ohio is sending a clear signal to the clean energy sector
that they are not welcome," said Daniel Sawmiller, Ohio energy
policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
    The bill's passage came nearly a month after FirstEnergy
Solutions' original June 30 deadline to purchase fuel for the
spring 2020 refueling of the Davis-Besse plant.
    Officials at FirstEnergy Solutions were not immediately
available for comment, but had said the company would work with
the state to avoid the Davis-Besse closure if the legislature
passed the bill by July 17.             
    Although the Senate, also controlled by Republicans, passed
the bill on that date, the House did not take up the legislation
because there were not enough members present to pass it at that
time.
    Analysts said the bill would also provide about $60 million
a year through 2030 to keep a couple of Ohio Valley Electric
Corp's (OVEC) coal plants in service, one of which is in
Indiana. OVEC is owned by American Electric Power Co Inc
       , Duke Energy Corp         and other Midwest utilities.
            
    The natural gas industry opposed the bill in part because
gas-fired power plants would make more money if coal and nuclear
plants shut.

    
 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and Sumita Layek in
Bengaluru; Editing by Susan Thomas and Peter Cooney)
  
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