The Heber Light and Power Board voted to terminate their investment in the Nu Scale nuclear power program resulting in a total loss of a little overdue to off ramp fees and the original investment.
Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter is on the Board of Directors and says she voted in favor of pulling out of the carbon free investment because the Department of Energy had backed out. This would leave small cities like Heber in line to be the first risk should something go wrong with the project once it comes online.
“For me primarily it was the subscriptions. The plant is going to be 720 megawatts. And initially they were up to about 180 subscribed and the Department of Energy was going to take the first 50 so nobody was taking the first risk. Well, the Department of Energy pulled out of that first risk position and just committed $1.3 billion dollars which is great but that leaves the small cities to take the first risk. And many cities have pulled out, a few just before we did and so now they're down to just over I believe 100 and some number of subscriptions and for me that was kind of the kicker 'cause I thought why are no other people jumping into this? Why are people jumping out? There could be other deeper issues that we aren't understanding or that nobody likes to take the first risk. But it can’t be small cities like Heber.”
The only dissenting vote from the board came from Wasatch County Council Representative Kendall Crittenden.
“I recognize that it was a great risk. A great financial risk. We stayed in the project. Costs have gone up some. It was am expensive proposition. it's the first of it’s kind. As I've watched it, I’ve toured the Nu Scale facility up there in Oregon. I’ve watched it as it’s moved along. I'm totally sold on their project. Nuclear, I think, is the wave of the future. I think it’s going to be a good project for whoever gets involved with it.”
Crittenden says Heber Light and Power has a good portfolio of non-carbon energy projects including solar, wind and steam. But he says with their highest usage from 5 to 8 P.M., and no real good battery storage, solar can’t handle their base needs.
“I think Nu Scale and Fleur. I think they’ve got enough money. I don't know I think they'll move forward with the projects. The question was asked, could we buy back in at a later date? We don't know and if so, we don't know what that rate will be."
Crittenden says Nu Scale’s contract was committed to keep the rates at $55.00 per megawatt hour.
Mayor Potter says Heber Light and Power has about 13,000 customers and 40 to 60% of their power comes from renewables. Right now, they don’t have an alternative plan.
“Our General Manager Jason Norman suggested that he assumes that a lot of these cities that are backing out are going to possibly maybe come together and do something else. Or you know we just have to keep looking. It seems like there's a lot of new technology coming up. We're definitely anxious to find more renewable resources but it is tricky to be able to find things that are affordable and reliable and consistent that we can depend upon around the clock.”
November 18 is the next board meeting and includes a public hearing on the proposed budget. It starts at 6 P.M.