The state of West Virginia is closely linked to coal power; in fact, in 2021, coal accounted for 91 percent of the state’s electricity. Politicians like the state’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin have painted any move against the highly polluting energy source as a move against the state’s well-being.
Manchin claimed that President Joe Biden’s comments ignored the significant economic hardship that the American people are going through as a result of increased energy prices when he portrayed the conversion of U.S. coal plants to wind and solar projects as a good.
However, the biggest utility in West Virginia has seen its customers’ costs rise by five times the national average over the past 15 years, according to an article on Inside Climate News on Sunday. Some experts attribute this to the state’s reliance on coal.
According to James Van Nostrand, a professor at the West Virginia University College of Law and the author of The Coal Trap, it all comes down to powerful economic factors. While we increased our reliance on coal, the rest of the country embraced natural gas, wind, and solar energy. And the cost of that is being borne by West Virginian ratepayers.
The cost of renewable energy has drastically decreased recently. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, more than half of the new renewable energy capacity deployed in 2019 produced electricity at a lower cost than new coal. Even though the rates of American Electric Power (AEP), the state’s largest utility, have increased 180 percent in 15 years, West Virginia policy officials have continued to support coal, according to Inside Climate News.
The West Virginia Public Service Commission wanted to know why AEP’s West Virginia subsidiaries weren’t operating outdated coal plants 69 percent of the time, as it had instructed them to do in September of last year when they requested a 12 percent rate increase in April. Utility companies contend that in order to meet this goal, they would have to operate coal plants even when doing so was not profitable. The state disputed that this would happen when its representatives questioned the state regulator about whether the additional expense should be passed along to customers.
AEP said in a document from September, as cited by Inside Climate News, that the firms “feel rather like a football team trying to play on an area of grass without markers or goal posts.”
Consumer concerns about West Virginia’s reliance on coal are nothing new. According to a 2021 CNN story, AEP’s three West Virginia coal facilities needed $448 million in renovations to operate until 2040 rather than 2028 as originally planned. Although utilities could save customers $317 million by simply decommissioning them in 2028, West Virginia’s Public Service Commission approved the modifications while regulators in Kentucky and Virginia voted against them.
According to senior researcher Sean O Leary of the Ohio River Valley Institute, even if these plants are maintained running, they will operate at such a low level that there will be significantly less employment and less coal used than there are currently. It seems like everyone is completely unaware of this truth, which has significant economic ramifications. If anything, a determined effort is being made to stop West Virginia from being imagined as a new kind of energy state.
Given the current state of the world’s energy supply, West Virginia’s high rates are even more problematic for its customers. According to Inside Climate News, while energy prices have increased more slowly than inflation in most of the United States, this has not been the case in West Virginia.
We have to pick between surviving and living, therefore we can’t afford to buy the things our children need! Dorothy Black, a resident of Huntington, West Virginia, wrote to state authorities in reaction to AEP’s planned rate increase.
With only 11,927 people employed in coal mines in 2021, a 46 percent decline from 2011, coal is no longer a significant employer in West Virginia, where it once was. Nevertheless, there is now a chance for various jobs in different forms of energy generation.
Read More: Registrations of EVs Go up By 57%.
According to a September story by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the Appalachian Climate Technology (ACT Now) alliance in West Virginia received $62.8 million from the American Rescue Plan’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge to establish a center for clean energy employment.
According to Solar Holler CEO Dan Conant, the construction and building of renewable energy projects will experience an absolute explosion. Over the next ten years, we’re going to witness an extraordinary shift toward renewable energy.