The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 4, 2012

Power decision

FirstEnergy has yet to determine plant workforce

It will be a few weeks before FirstEnergy knows how many employees will be needed at the Ashtabula Township generation plant to meet the requirements of a temporary reprieve for that plant and three others.

When the announcement was made in January, the utility said 400 jobs would be lost, 57 of them at Ashtabula.

FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said some of the affected employees were offered retirement packages and others had the opportunity to take jobs at other FirstEnergy facilities. The PJM decision’s impact on staffing won’t be immediately known.

PJM Interconnection, which manages Ohio’s high-voltage grid, determined that FirstEnergy’s plan to close the coal-fired plants this year would reduce the reliability of the delivery system in northern Ohio. In its final ruling on FirstEnergy’s plan, PJM requested that the utility keep the plants available to produce power until April 2015.

Durbin said the reprieve does not mean that the plants will run around the clock. Indeed, all four plants — Eastlake, Lakeshore, Ashtabula and Toledo — will be on “must-run” status, called into service only during times of peak consumption.

“... it’s not our intention to run them all that much,” Durbin said.

Durbin said a plant can start generating power within a few hours of receiving notification.

“It doesn’t take long,” Durbin said. “Typically, PJM will give several days notice to us.”

He did not know how the plants will be prioritized for bringing them online. Eastlake has two 132-megawatt generators and Lakeshore, the oldest plant in the system, has a 245-megawatt generator. The Ashtabula plant has a single 244-megawatt generator that dates from the late 1920s.

All of the coal-fired plants would have required extensive investment in environmental controls in order to meet new federal requirements that will kick in come 2015. That led FirstEnergy to announce plans to close the plants by September, subject to the PJM review, which took 90 days.

The short-term need for additional generation will eventually be replaced by improvements to FirstEnergy’s transmission system, which will be made over the next three years. The improvements will allow power that is generated outside the region to flow onto the regional grid.

Also, starting in September, FirstEnergy plans to use two of its generators at Eastlake to regulate voltages in the system. The utility also plans to add 800 megawatts of generating capacity at Eastlake using new combustion turbines.

“But to get you from now until then, you will need these (coal-fired) plants,” Durbin said.

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