By LINDA HARRIS
The State Journal
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Public interest groups are organizing resistance to a rumored sale of an aging West Virginia coal-fired power plant to Monongahela Power and its sister agency, Potomac Edison.
Mon Power had issued a request for preliminary expressions of interest in mid-December for 1,300 megawatts of additional generating capacity, and gave companies that passed its pre-qualification test until Feb. 3 to submit a formal proposal.
With that deadline just days away, a coalition of economic and ratepayer advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, businesses and elected officials have launched West Virginians For Energy Freedom — a coalition aimed at stopping FirstEnergy Corp. from shoring up the solvency of one of its subsidiaries in Ohio’s de-regulated energy market at the expense of its West Virginia customer base.
“FirstEnergy’s scheme is now moving forward, and later this year Mon Power is expected to seek approval from the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) to buy Pleasants,” the groups said in the release.
On Jan. 31, West Virginians For Energy Freedom delivered a seven-page letter to the WV Public Service Commission expressing its members’ concern, saying Mon Power’s recent RFP to purchase 1,300 megawatts of additional generating capacity is “skewed” to favor the Pleasant’s plant. The group described the RFP as a “veiled attempt to justify the selection of a coal generating station … that will shift the risk from FirstEnergy Corp’s merchant subsidiary to West Virginia ratepayers.”
The consumer groups point out Mon Power’s acquisition of another FirstEnergy property, the Harrison Power plant, in 2013 has already cost Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers more than $160 million.
“Rather than engaging in an open, competitive RFP process that procures the best supply-side and demand-side resources at the lowest cost to ratepayers, Mon Power’s RFP is heavily skewed to favor a single resource: the 1300 MW Pleasants power plant owned by Allegheny Energy Supply, Mon Power’s unregulated corporate affiliate,” they wrote. “… The (PSC) should be aware that the RFP was not a legitimate effort to identify what resources are available in the marketplace and at what price. Rather, this RFP appears to be part of FirstEnergy’s plan to shift the financial risks of Pleasants from shareholders to West Virginia ratepayers.”
The group said to provide economical service to ratepayers, “an RFP must be designed so that the process is competitive and transparent.”
“Unfortunately, the only thing that is transparent about Mon Power’s RFP is its ultimate objective: orchestrating the sale of Pleasants, and thus shifting the plant’s financial risks onto the companies’ ratepayers. When, later this year, Mon Power seeks Commission approval to purchase Pleasants, we urge the commission to evaluate the company’s request and this RFP for what it is: an RFP designed to result in transferring Pleasants to the companies, and not an objective, transparent endeavor to acquire capacity.”
At a press conference in front of the PSC offices in Charleston, Karan Ireland, state director of WV SUN, said West Virginia “should not be responsible for bailing out a corporation like FirstEnergy.”
“Compare the company’s executive salaries and the net worth of its shareholders with the income of the average West Virginian and tell me again how this deal makes sense?” Ireland said. “It doesn’t make sense for consumers, it doesn’t make sense for small businesses, and it doesn’t make sense for our state.”
Emmett Pepper, executive direcot of Energy Efficient West Virginia, said Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers “have seen enough rate increases.”
“FirstEnergy is bending over backward to find a reason to force West Virginians to pay for this plant,” Pepper said. “We don’t need the Pleasants Plant’s energy, and it wouldn’t be a good deal for customers, even if we did.”