MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — FirstEnergy Corporation’s MonPower and Potomac Edison have proposed acquisition of the Pleasants Power Station near Belmont, and the public will have a chance to comment on the proposal during a hearing before the Public Service Commission Tuesday.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Monongalia County Judicial Center.

FirstEnergy Spokesperson Todd Meyers said the proposed acquisition would help FirstEnergy’s West Virginia subsidiaries meet the growing demand for power onset by the natural gas industry’s regional growth.

“By 2020, we’re going to begin to have a shortfall in electricity. That doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to have power, but what it would mean is that we have less generating capacity,” Meyers said. “The plants would not be able to generate as much power as we need, and we’d have to buy additional power from the market.

“By 2027, that shortfall continues to grow to almost 1,200 megawatts,” he said. “A megawatt is enough to power about 1,000 homes, so you can see it gets to be a very large shortfall.”

Purchasing a plant the size of the Pleasants Power Station would help to offset that shortfall, Meyers said.

“We put out a RFP to see how we could secure that, and the Pleasants plant, owned by Allegheny Energy Supply, came in at $195 million, and that was about an eighth of the cost of the next two plants that bid into the process,” he said. “We would’ve had to purchase both of those to get the same amount of electricity.”

That cost savings will also be felt by MonPower and Potomac Edison customers.

Meyers said residential rates would be reduced by about $1/month or $12/year, as compared to other options.

“In addition to that, it brings some other benefits, of course,” he said. “There’s more than 200 employees at that plant, so it preserves their jobs. There’s a lot of coal-related jobs that feed that plant with fuel, and it also pays millions of dollars in state and local taxes each year.”

Acquiring the Pleasants Power Station would not only assure that the existing electrical needs were met, but also provide for future growth, such as the new Procter & Gamble under construction in the eastern panhandle.

Meyers said that FirstEnergy worked closely with Procter & Gamble when the company decided to open its new plant near Martinsburg.

“We know by having this confidential discussions with them, what could be increases and lows down the road because these businesses can’t locate anywhere without knowing they’ll have affordable, reliable electricity,” he said.

A booming natural gas industry in the central part of the state could lead to more electrical needs as well, Meyers said.

“Anyone who’s driven along the Rt. 50 corridor sees all the different gas development there. Mark West has a big, mid-stream gas processing facility, there’s another one up in Wetzel County, and Antero has there large waste-water, flat water treatment plant,” he said. “You can see the lay-down yards for pipelines, and that business has exploded. The power use has gone up exponentially in just a handful of years.”

While there are benefits to a diverse energy industry, Meyers said purely renewable resources are not enough to fill the need.

“I hear people who stand up at these hearings and talk about renewables,” he said. “They talk about solar, about wind, about battery storage and many other things.”

“In West Virginia right now, and even in many other parts of the country, while they’re growing — and they’re growing at a fast rate — they don’t come close to filling the gap.”

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