By: Chris Hamilton President & CEO
West Virginia Coal Association
Recent news stories across the state have reported on a tentative agreement advanced by several parties to a typical public electric utility rate case, whereby the utility petitions the Public Service Commission to recover partial costs the utility incurred to keep West Virginia’s lights on. Some suggest that the agreement and others like it are not in the best interest of the public.
West Virginia has always enjoyed extremely low-cost and reliable energy primarily due to our modem coal-fired electric manufacturing facilities and nearby high quality, clean burning coal reserves. It’s been our natural advantage and continues to be the best deal around as evidenced by all the new investment by large industrial power consumers (e.g., Nucor, Omnis Energy, Fidelis New Energy, and many others) that chose West Virginia for our competitive costs of energy and other reasons.
Despite recent nominal rate increases, West Virginia offers the lowest electric rates of our surrounding states but for Kentucky and the most reliable and dependable energy across the land, a highly sought after component of energy today.
Our coal-manufactured power doesn’t just come on as our lights do by flipping a switch. It takes a symphony of skilled miners, plant workers, world class mining and power plant operators and thousands of West Virginians and contractors engaged in transportation, maintenance, and support activities between the mine mouth and boilers to make it all work. All told, 57,000 West Virginians show up at a mine or power plant in our state every day.
Our energy ecosystem continues to provide reliable, baseload power at a fraction of the cost of building a new system, investing in out-of-state energy sources, or building out renewables or intermittent power systems. Energy prices have risen worldwide as renewables have underperformed in most regions and not worked in others. Paying a few extra dollars for needed upgrades or added storm related costs to maintain a superior energy delivery system is well worth the investment to all West Virginians.
It was recently revealed in a Wisconsin study that other energy jobs have not replaced our traditional heavy industry jobs as our federal government and some government officials have promised.
To help keep consumer costs low when future plant upgrades or important operating or maintenance costs are incurred, perhaps the Legislature should consider a program to allow our public utilities to apply for a rebate against their tax liabilities in lieu of imposing rate hikes on our citizenry. Expanding energy subsidies or tax offsets for seniors or low-income families could also help defray future costs.
Reinvesting coal severance dollars to keep these facilities humming would also be preferred instead of using this revenue as incentives to lure forms of alternative energy into our state.
Rest assured, the recent investments made to our in-state coal plants and the ability of our utilities to recover costs directly associated with keeping these facilities fine-tuned and operational for many decades to come will help sustain 57,000 West Virginia jobs. This also guarantees West Virginia’s household power system will be second to none and will continue to provide baseload and reliable power at the flip of a switch.