Key player in Vermont Yankee closure leaving Entergy

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VERNON — One of the public faces of Vermont Yankee's closure, decommissioning and possible sale is leaving Entergy Corp. next month.

Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, will retire effective Feb. 28, the company announced Wednesday.

Mohl has overseen Entergy's ongoing exit from the wholesale nuclear power business, including the 2014 shutdown of Vermont Yankee. That strategic shift was one of the company's key objectives that Mohl has helped achieve, said Leo Denault, Entergy's chairman and chief executive officer.

"The successful transition from the merchant power business is allowing us to focus on growing the utility," Denault said in announcing Mohl's departure. "(Mohl's) leadership, business perspective and ability to achieve results are characteristics that made him an important member of our senior leadership team."

Mohl took over Entergy Wholesale Commodities in February 2013. Six months later, Entergy announced that Vermont Yankee would stop producing power at the end of 2014.

Mohl was front and center at that announcement in Brattleboro, making clear that Entergy's decision was financial and not political.

"This decision was based on the economics of the plant, not operational performance, not litigation risk, nor political pressure. Simply put: The plant costs exceed the plant revenue," Mohl said at the time. "After careful analysis, it becomes painfully clear that Vermont Yankee is no longer financially viable."

He cited several factors behind the plant's closure, including low natural gas prices; high maintenance and operational costs; and a "flawed" wholesale energy market that doesn't recognize nuclear power's benefits.

Those since have become recurring themes as Entergy has systematically worked to extricate itself from the merchant power business, in which plants sell power on the open market rather than being owned by a utility.

In 2015, Entergy announced the closures of the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Mass., and the FitzPatrick plant in Scriba, N.Y. FitzPatrick since has been saved by a pending sale to Exelon Generation, but Pilgrim still is slated to stop power production in 2019.

The past few months have brought two more Entergy nuclear closure announcements: The Palisades plant in Covert, Mich., is scheduled to shut in 2018; and the twin-reactor Indian Point plant in Buchanan, N.Y. will close in 2020-21.

In disclosing the Indian Point news earlier this month, Mohl again pointed to "low current and projected wholesale energy prices" as well as increasing operating and licensure costs.

Mohl has stayed involved in Vermont Yankee affairs post-shutdown. He was one of the signatories of a 2013 settlement agreement that provided millions of dollars in economic development and clean energy development funding to the state and to Windham County.

And in November, Mohl announced that Entergy had struck a deal to sell Vermont Yankee to New York-based NorthStar Group Services Inc. NorthStar has pledged to decommission and restore the Vernon plant site by the end of 2030 - decades faster than Entergy had planned.

Mohl has said the proposed sale, which requires state and federal approval, is a way to fulfill Entergy's commitment "to decommission Vermont Yankee as soon as reasonably possible."

He also said the Entergy/NorthStar deal "could set a model for future decommissioning efforts."

Entergy's planned exit from the wholesale power business apparently means that no one will step directly into Mohl's shoes at Entergy Wholesale Commodities. The company's press release says "Mohl's responsibilities will move to other senior leaders within the business effective March 1."

Entergy has said it remains committed to nuclear power, but it's a commitment to a different business model: The company still operates five reactors in the South, all of which are in regulated utility markets rather than a wholesale, merchant market.

Mike Faher reports for the Reformer, VTDigger, and The Commons. He can be contacted at mfaher@vtdigger.org.


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