Will West Virginia pay the full cost of keeping 3 coal plants alive?
West Virginia electricity customers may be asked to pay more to keep three coal-fired plants open longer, but not everyone is on board.
On Friday, the West Virginia Public Service Commission will review whether Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power customers will pay the full cost of upgrades to John Amos, Mitchell and Mountaineering centers.
All three plants need changes to their wastewater treatment systems. The changes would allow factories to continue operating until 2040. Without them, factories are expected to close by the end of 2028.
This is where it gets complicated. The Mitchell plant is half-owned by Wheeling Power and Kentucky Power. Kentucky utility regulators have rejected the company’s request to modernize the plant.
Approximately 60% of the electricity produced by the Amos and Mountaineer plants is intended for customers in Virginia. The Crown Corporations Commission over there also rejected upgrades for these factories.
This raises a difficult question. Is it fair that customers in those states are getting electricity from fully modernized power plants at the expense of West Virginia?
Emmett Pepper, policy director for Energy Efficient West Virginia, says no.
“It’s not fair to West Virginia taxpayers to have to pay for a power plant that other states are making and profiting from,” he said. “It’s not fair for West Virginia to pay for something that is Kentuckians and Virginians.
Pepper’s group is not alone. The West Virginia Consumer Advocate division opposes the plan. The same applies to groups representing the largest industrial customers of the State in terms of electricity.
Rebecca McPhail, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, urged the commission in a letter to reject the plan. She called the proposal “counterproductive” and wrote that higher electricity costs would make the state’s manufacturing base “less competitive.”
Pepper’s group calculated that a 3.3% rate increase to pay for the projects of the three factories would add $ 4.50 per month to the average residential customer’s bill.
It may not end there. Changes in the ownership structure of factories could increase costs. If Wheeling Power bought half of Kentucky Power’s ownership in the Mitchell plant, it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Again, consumers would pay.
Pepper said he had seen this happen before.
“In the past, it cost us a lot of money,” he said. “It cost us a lot of price increases.”
Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power have said they need a response from the Civil Service Commission by October 13. If companies decide to end wastewater treatment projects and close factories in 2028, they must notify state officials by then. .
Friday’s hearing will give stakeholders and the public the opportunity to let commissioners know what price they are prepared to pay to keep electricity flowing from the three power plants. Even if the answer is not a dime more.
More information on how to watch Friday’s audience and how to submit a comment.