W. Virginia Questions FirstEnergy Plan to Buy Another Coal Plant

first_imgW. Virginia Questions FirstEnergy Plan to Buy Another Coal Plant FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Andrew Brown for the Charleston Gazette-Mail:First Energy, the parent company of MonPower and Potomac Edison, is facing tough questions about the company’s future energy plan in West Virginia.The Public Service Commission staff sent a request to First Energy officials last month asking them to explain why they believe buying another coal-fired power plant in the near future is the best way to provide electricity to its 520,000 customers in the Mountain State.The line of questioning by the PSC staff comes two months after First Energy provided the commission with its integrated resource plan — a 15-year forecast that is meant to outline the lowest cost options for electricity in the future. It marked the first time electric utilities were required to disclose those planning documents in West Virginia.While many electric utilities throughout the country have moved toward lower-priced natural gas and other renewable energy sources, MonPower’s and Potomac Edison’s resource plan suggests the companies would seek to buy another coal-fired power plant in the region.In 2013, the PSC allowed the state’s largest electric utilities to buy large coal-fired power plants from their parent companies, which were capable of providing more electricity than their customers in West Virginia used. Opponents of those purchases criticized the plans as bailouts for the parent companies’ shareholders by electric users in West Virginia.The utility companies had argued that they could sell excess electricity onto the regional grid, helping to cut the cost of those coal plants for West Virginia customers. But natural gas plants have largely become cheaper than coal power in recent years, meaning West Virginia’s power plants are called on less by the regional grid, known as the PJM Interconnection.As the rest of the country is benefiting from low-priced natural gas, West Virginians are required to get the vast majority of their electricity from coal.First Energy’s plan to further invest in coal power in West Virginia is being sharply analyzed by the PSC staff members.The four-page inquiry sent to the company questions many of the most fundamental cost and market calculations that are laid out in First Energy’s report.The PSC staff asks why coal-fired generation is the only option being considered, whether the company factored in possible regulations on carbon pollution and how First Energy actually came up with the estimated cost of other fuel sources like gas, solar and wind, all of which were priced substantially higher than coal in the company’s report.The staff also asked company officials how they came up with the reported growth rate in customer electricity usage, which First Energy estimates to be around 2.2 percent annually between 2015 and 2020. As part of the questions, the PSC staff ordered the company to submit the data they relied on for their calculations.In response, First Energy maintained that an exiting coal plant would be the cheapest energy option for customers, even compared to new combined cycle gas turbines.Meanwhile, First Energy continues to idle some of its largest coal-fired plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania because of the low prices those electric generators were receiving in the market, and MonPower is considering retrofitting the Harrison Power plant near Clarksburg to burn natural gas.Full article: First Energy being questioned about future planslast_img

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