On August 30, ISO-NE held an auction for power supplies in 2013-2014, the Forward Capacity Market Auction. ISO-NE is the grid manager for New England, responsible for power supply and grid stability. As ISO-NE announced in a press release that day, Vermont Yankee dropped out of the auction. Actually they didn't drop out forever. Yankee attempted to do a "dynamic delist" from the auction, which could be temporary.
This led to a certain amount of speculation. What was the plant's motivation for dropping out? Why didn't they drop out months ago? The plant isn't making much money, maybe that's the reason they dropped out?
In my opinion, the plant explained itself well. According to the Rutland Herald, Entergy spokesman Larry Smith said that: Entergy requested not to participate in the auction because Vermont Yankee’s license to operate from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its certificate of public good from the state of Vermont both expire in 2012 and have not been renewed.
Withdrawing from the auction doesn't mean the plant won't operate past its current license expiration date, but it does mean that the plant isn't promising to operate past that date. The plant refused to make a promise that it might not be able to keep. To me, that seems honorable.
Except, of course, that Vermont Yankee did participate in the auction. ISO New England wouldn't allow VY to drop out.
ISO Keeps Vermont Yankee in the Auction
ISO New England insisted that Vermont Yankee remain in the auction. A few quotes from their press release about the auction:
If the ISO’s reliability analysis shows that the resource is needed, it is not allowed to withdraw from the capacity market....
....Studies for future system needs in Vermont and New Hampshire have been ongoing for more than a year and are being updated to reflect the possibility of a Vermont Yankee shutdown in order to identify impacts on the regional power system. The studies completed so far have shown that with or without Vermont Yankee, the system in Vermont has reliability issues that must be addressed; without Vermont Yankee in service, those issues are more severe and could affect neighboring areas...ISO New England does not have authority to require Vermont Yankee to operate without the appropriate permits and licenses, but it does have the responsibility to ensure a reliable power system. This responsibility requires the ISO to develop alternative solutions...These alternatives could include interim solutions such as emergency generation brought into Vermont temporarily, more expensive generation from outside Vermont, and demand-side resources.... All these options will come at an additional cost....
As one Vermont blogger put it: Life Without Yankee would be..expensive, chaotic, and occasionally dark.
What Is Reliability, Though?
I have an inquiring mind, which is sometimes a liability. I agree with ISO-NE that we need Vermont Yankee, but I really didn't understand it all.
How does ISO-NE judge reliability? Have other areas of New England ever had reliability problems? If they had problems, what did ISO-NE do about it? Why did ISO-NE keep Vermont Yankee in the auction, if there is a chance that Vermont Yankee won't be operating?
These questions will be answered, but they deserve a post to themselves. Stay tuned for the post on reliability. N minus 1 minus 1.
The Seventeenth Blog Carnival Of Nuclear Energy
Carousel at Avignon, again.