Over the past year, the WV PSC has refused to take up the task of rebuilding WV’s electric distribution system based on decentralized renewable power and the WV Legislature has refused, for the second year in a row, to make investment in reducing infrastructure needs by investing in more efficient use of electricity.
The result is new rate increases designed to patch together and protect WV’s failing electrical distribution system.
According to a news release from Appalachian Power, if the PSC approves the companies’ proposal, the increased maintenance on rights-of-way would cost about $58 million a year. That money would be “collected through a surcharge included in customers’ bills,” according to the news release.
Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power customers already pay for about $11.6 million a year for right-of-way maintenance, according to the companies.
West Virginia residential customers of the companies who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month would see their bills increase by 2.5 percent, or about $2.38 a month, according to the companies. Depending on how much power they use, commercial, industrial and other customers in West Virginia would see their bills rise between 0.1 percent and 3.8 percent.
When the PSC ordered power companies in January to come up with a new plan for keeping rights-of-way clear, commissioners acknowledged that power customers and utility companies “would likely pay more in the future,” but they said the higher costs should “be offset by reduced outages, lower customer impact and less disruption from future storms.”
In any case, PSC commissioners said in their January order, “it is clear from this investigation that sufficient funding for right-of-way management should not be sacrificed in the interest of keeping customer rates as low as possible.” [emphasis mine]
So, there you have it, just as I have been writing on The Power Line for the past four years. Big electric holding companies like AEP and FirstEnergy chase rate payer subsidized big transmission projects, coal remains expensive as a fuel, AEP and FirstEnergy are increasing WV’s dependence on their obsolete coal-fired generation, and the Ohio-based companies’ obsolete distribution technology is becoming more and more expensive to maintain.
These are exactly the reasons that the Edison Electric Institute pointed to the imminent collapse of the entire centralized, monopoly-based electrical system in the US.
And governmental leaders in WV are now part of the coming train wreck. As the Gazette story points out, the WV PSC has already signaled it’s willingness to invest more and more rate payer money in WV’s failing infrastructure. Not only did the WV Legislature kill all attempts to expand energy efficiency investment in WV, but legislators also failed to renew the tax credit for residential investment in renewable power systems.
Innovation? Entrepreneurship? Creativity? Energy security? Those are for other states, not ours. At least that’s what WV politicians seem to think.