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AEP plans no new WV coal plants; Longview hopes for more coal plants to come

By JIM ROSS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Appalachian Power Co. will rely on coal to produce most of its electricity for the next 23 years, but that does not mean the company is looking to add any more coal-fired generating capacity.

Speaking at the Coal Forum presentation in Charleston on Thursday, June 29, Jeri Matheney, spokeswoman for the American Electric Power subsidiary in West Virginia, said the company’s three coal-fired plants in the Mountain State — Amos, Mountaineer and Mitchell — will continue providing the bulk of Appalachian’s power until at least the year 2040.

“What we are is a coal-based electric utility, and we will remain that,” she said at the event in the Culture Center on the State Capitol grounds.

Coal provides about 61 percent of Appalachian’s generating capacity, but that will fall to about 51 percent by 2031 as the company adds wind and solar sources, Matheney said.

Coal faces three strong headwinds in West Virginia, Matheney said: the demand for electricity is declining, natural gas prices are predicted to remain competitive and the cost of solar power, including incentives, is expected to decline.

Appalachian Power’s newest coal plant — the Mountaineer plant in Mason County — opened in 1980, and the company has no plans to add additional coal-fired generation, she said.

Also speaking at the forum was Jeffrey Keffer, CEO of Longview Power, which owns and operates the Longview Power Plant in Monongalia County. That plant is a merchant plant. It is not owned by a utility. Rather it is an independent generator that sells its power on the regional grid.

Keffer said the Longview plant is less than five years old and uses the most modern, cleanest coal-burning technology. He described it as the model for clean, reliable baseload generation.

Most of the coal fleet in West Virginia and in the United States is more than 40 years old, meaning it is approaching the time in its life cycle when maintenance and repair costs begin climbing a steep upward curve, Keffer said.

Advanced technology plants such as Longview must be built to replaced the existing coal fleet and fulfill baseload generation requirements, he said.

That will require three things, Keffer said. First is certainty on the future of the Clean Power Plan. Second is a level playing field among the different types of generation. Renewables have subsidies that distort the marketplace, he said.

Third is streamling the permitting process, Keffer said. Perhaps by next spring, developers will be able to fast-track new coal-fired plants, he said.

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