On Monday, the Kentucky Public Service Commission conditionally approved a settlement agreement between Sierra Club, American Electric Power (AEP) and others, which the PSC said would resolve the future of power generation in eastern Kentucky after the 2015 retirement of the coal-fired generators at the Big Sandy Power Plant near Louisa, Kentucky.
The ruling commits AEP's subsidiary Kentucky Power to invest in a host of clean energy programs along with a focus on new, low-income community development investments in Lawrence County, according to the Sierra Club.
While both coal-fired units of the plant had been previously scheduled to stop burning coal, the ruling will allow some of the replacement power to come from a plant in Moundsville, West Virginia, owned by AEP subsidiary Ohio Power.
“This is an important moment in Kentucky’s history – a win for public health and the dawn of a new economic era,” said Alice Howell, Chair of the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club in Kentucky. “However, the impacts of this economic transition go beyond this one case. It is critical that we continue to look for ways to work with the governor to support clean energy investments in Eastern Kentucky to help replace coal-related jobs.”
The agreement commits Kentucky Power to significantly increase its energy efficiency investments over the next five years: from $3 million this year to $4 million in 2014, $5 million in 2015, as well as $6 million in investments per year from 2016 to 2018, to continue at that level thereafter. These in-state energy efficiency investments are designed to bring jobs directly into the Kentucky Power service areas while decreasing the total energy consumption of eastern Kentucky, according to a release from the Sierra Club.
“This decision means increased investments in energy efficiency programs that create jobs, save money and protect public health by reducing the amount of energy that is wasted today,” Howell said. “On top of that, energy efficiency is the cheapest option we have to meet our growing energy demands.”
The order also approves a commitment for Kentucky Power to incorporate a request for 100 megawatts of wind power into their upcoming integrated resource planning (IRP) process. The IRP process essentially creates the blueprint for where electricity will be generated and where the company will buy electricity over the next few years, according to the Sierra Club.
“Investing in wind power is an investment in the future of Kentucky’s economy,” said Alex DeSha, a community organizer with the Sierra Club. “When we spend our energy dollars upgrading our power to clean, renewable energy sources, what we’re really doing is investing in American workers and public health. Adding opportunities for clean sources of energy will diversify our energy mix and help stabilize electricity costs for Kentucky families.”
Kentucky Power Company has now pledged to invest more than $1.1 million towards economic development in low-income communities in Lawrence County Kentucky and surrounding counties. At least one-third of that money must be used for job training, with a focus on weatherization and energy efficiency training, according the Sierra Club release.