CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two consumer groups support a proposed settlement that would transfer partial ownership of the Mitchell Power Station in Marshall County to Wheeling Power. Energy Efficient West Virginia and West Virginia Citizen Action Group both signed off on the proposal that was submitted to the state Public Service Commission last week.
American Electric Power wants one of its Ohio-based subsidiaries to transfer ownership to the West Virginia-based Wheeling Power to increase capacity. AEP first tried to transfer ownership to Appalachian Power but Virginia regulators rejected the plan.
Charleston lawyer Emmett Pepper works with both groups. The executive director of Energy Efficient and counsel for WV CAG said the gains in the proposed settlement are significant. He said one of those is AEP has agreed to spend more on energy efficiency programs.
“The power company has increased their annual amount they spend on energy efficiency to 10-million dollars a year (from $8.2 million),” Pepper said. The proposal includes a continuation and expansion of current programs.
Pepper also said West Virginia consumers will pay for 82.5 percent of the plant through the first few years of the purchase not 100 percent. Wheeling Power customers also won’t be responsible for Conner Run Fly Ash Impoundment that is also on the site.
Pepper said a key provision of the proposal requires AEP to make the process of selling any future power plants more open.
“The next time they have a need for energy and want to buy some more power plants they need to put it out for Request for Proposal. It needs to be a competitive process instead of just what it looks like, to the outsider at least, a sweetheart deal,” Pepper said.
With PSC approval of the settlement, the transfer would make the third coal-fired plant transfer to a West Virginia-based energy company in the past year. The PSC approved the transfer of FirstEnergy’s Harrison power station to Mon Power and AEP’s John Amos plant to Appalachian Power. Pepper said it is cause for concern.
“Electric customers in West Virginia do not have a very diverse portfolio—it’s almost exclusively coal. So we are tied very much to what coal prices are,” Pepper said. “We’re now locked in. If natural gas gets a lot cheaper, solar gets cheaper, wind gets cheaper and coal continues to get more expensive, we’re on the hook.”
The PSC is reviewing the proposed settlement concerning the Mitchell Power Plant.