Pleasants Power Station Sale Dubbed "Corporate Welfare"
CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Consumer and citizen groups say a plan by First Energy to sell the Pleasants Power Station near Belmont, now before the Public Service Commission, is corporate welfare at the expense of ratepayers.
The groups say First Energy selling the Willow Island plant to Mon Power and Potomac Edison would cost the typical ratepayer $60 to $70 a year.
Emmett Pepper, executive director of the advocacy group Energy Efficient West Virginia, says First Energy wants to shift the big, coal-fired power station from a subsidiary – where the corporation has all the risk – to two subsidiaries where, by law, the companies can charge all costs to consumers.
"Instead of First Energy, which currently owns the plant, to go around the free market, and to make it so that they are guaranteed income, while we ratepayers take the risk," he points out.
First Energy argues that its projections indicate the need for more generating capacity.
Pepper says the company is using a higher standard for peak demand than grid regulators require.
At a hearing last week, the PSC chairman said the commission is looking at conditions for the sale that might change the result if the company's projections are overstated.
Power companies have moved to shift several coal plants from risky, deregulated markets to West Virginia's regulated market in recent years.
Soft demand for electricity, low-cost natural gas and cheap wind and solar is increasingly making big baseline coal plants such as Pleasants expensive white elephants.
Pepper argues that Pleasants is no longer competitive or valuable on the open market.
He says if First Energy were really concerned about meeting demand, there are easier gains to be made through energy efficiency.
"'Cause it's cheaper to incentivize people through rebates and such to become more energy efficient than it is to pay to produce electricity,” he explains. “This is one opportunity where, A – we don't think we need it at all, and B – if there is any kind of need in the near future, it's going to be very small."
The Public Service Commission looks likely to have a decision on the sale by the end of the year.