MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The WVU Board of Governors voted Friday to amend its contract with Morgantown Energy Associates regarding the switch from waste coal to natural gas at MEA’s power plant on Beechurst Avenue in Morgantown.
Under an agreement approved by the state Public Service Commission last month, the plant stopped producing electricity for Mon Power on Jan. 1 and began producing only steam for both WVU campuses.
The PSC approved a $60 million settlement between MEA and Mon Power. The utility bought out the remaining years of its contract with MEA saying it no longer needs the power it generates. The facility has been producing 50 mega-watts of power since 1992.
WVU Vice president for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop told the BOG an amendment was needed to allow the switch.
“We have a contract to take steam from MEA through 2027,” Alsop said. “They have made a proposal to the university to no longer produce steam with coal, but with natural gas boilers.”
Alsop explained the original coal-based contract was negotiated about 25 years ago and it needed board authorization to substitute natural gas for coal.
“The existing contract price resets several times each year based on the price of coal, natural gas and industrial commodities,” Alsop said. “We don’t know the extent of the savings, but we do believe it will be more stable than the previous contract.”
Workers are expected complete the switch in the spring when the university can shut the steam supply down for a few days.
The PSC order requires MEA to provide LP Mineral, the company that supplies the waste coal to the plant, six months notice before the coal fired boilers are shutdown. The PSC has also ordered MEA to make “certain reporting requirements.”
LP Minerals President James Laurita testified in November the jobs lost through the contract termination would cost the economy $17 million a year, the same amount Mon Power says terminating the deal would save ratepayers. Laurita believes as many as 40 jobs could be cut at the plant.
“I’m saying $17 million, just those three vendors and the 40 employees, the value is $17 million a year that’s going to be lost just to the community of Morgantown,” Laurita said. “That’s $300 million over (the remainder of the contract). So there’s $300 million that’s lost to the community.”