By Dan Heyman
FirstEnergy has cut the cost of a power plant transfer proposal, but a community group has said it is still a bad bargain for ratepayers. The plan now before the Public Service Commission (PSC) would transfer part of the Harrison power plant from the company’s Allegheny Energy Supply subsidiary to MonPower, another subsidiary. After negotiating with opponents, FirstEnergy reduced the cost to consumers in the northern part of the state by one-third.
The PSC’s consumer advocate signed on, but Cathy Kunkel, a consultant with West Virginia Citizen Action Group in the case, said the cost is still 50 percent too high, based on the real value of the Harrison plant.
“They’re proposing to buy a coal plant from their affiliated company that has tons of debt,” Kunkel said. “There is a lot more going on here about bailing out that affiliated company than about the best interests of West Virginia ratepayers.”
FirstEnergy said the deal is intended to ensure that MonPower has enough capacity to generate electricity in the future. Kunkel pointed out that there are better and cheaper ways to do that.
Kunkel said they like parts of the proposal – more funds for low-income weatherization and a greater commitment to energy efficiency – but at its heart, it’s still a bad deal. At a time when just about every utility that can is shifting from coal to cheap natural gas, this plan would rigidly tie ratepayers to one fuel, she warned.
“Under the terms of this deal, MonPower’s ratepayers are going to be depending on just two 40-year-old coal plants for the next 20 years,” she explained, “which is the opposite of fuel diversity.”
The PSC docket number for the proposal is 12-1571.