If Coal’s the Cheapest Fuel, Then What’s the Problem?

SB162, which would require WV power companies to submit least cost plans to the WV PSC every two years, is being held up in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  HB4646, the same bill that was introduced in the House, is also being held up in the House Government Organization Committee.

What’s the hold up?  We have learned from legislators that AEP’s lobbyists and FirstEnergy’s lobbyists have started a whispering campaign claiming that having to identify the lowest system cost among various ways of supplying power to WV would result in coal miners losing jobs and the power companies’ coal fired plants closing down.

Really?  Would a plan, produced by power companies themselves, submitted to the PSC with no requirement that the PSC do anything in response cause power companies and coal companies to fire the people who work for them?

But I don’t understand.  Just two days ago, the Wheeling Intelligencer wrote this in an editorial:

But as matters stand, coal is the most economical method of generating electricity. President Barack Obama’s administration is pressuring utilities to abandon it in favor of other fuels – preferably “alternatives” such as wind and solar power.

Some utilities, including Appalachian’s parent, AEP, already have plans to close some coal-fired plants and convert to other fuels.

Once that happens, power prices will explode – making Appalachian’s current worry over coal prices seem like a fond memory.

The Intelligencer says that coal is “the most economical method of generating electricity.”  The Intelligencer’s editors go on to say that the power companies themselves are closing coal fired power plants.  As for “power prices explod[ing],” I think a 50% increase is four years is already “exploding” without a single WV power plant closing.  Those exploding rate increases are memories at this point, but no one is recalling them “fondly.”

I’m very confused.  Why should AEP and FirstEnergy lobbyists be telling our legislators that least cost planning will cause them to close coal fired power plants, when they are already doing that?  Why should power company lobbyists be opposing a requirement that they identify the power generating methods with the lowest system cost if coal is “the most economical method of generating electricity?”

I have actually had several legislators repeat the claim that coal fired power is the cheapest power to produce.  Well, if that is the case, then there should be no problem with passing SB162, because least cost planning will boost the use of coal fired power in WV.  Right?

Or maybe WV’s power companies aren’t really interested in keeping electric rates as low as possible.  If the WV Legislature rejects least cost planning, that might also be evidence that WV’s political leaders aren’t really interested in keeping rates down either.

3 thoughts on “If Coal’s the Cheapest Fuel, Then What’s the Problem?

  1. It sure did! I wonder how many jobs we could stimulate by lowering the high electric bills of WV businesses and industry through least-cost planning? Who knows… maybe we could even attract a Keebler Towne House Cracker plant! I just love Ernie and the elves. But, making crackers is such an energy-intensive practice, it’s really not magic after all if the elves would have to subsidize the coal industry through their high WV electric bills. Big frowny face! 😦

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