Sierra Club & AEP Reach Deal on Future of Kentucky’s Big Sandy Coal Plant

Deal would bring renewable energy, energy efficiency and new jobs to eastern Kentucky

Frankfort, KY–(ENEWSPF)–June 6, 2013.   Late last week Sierra Club and American Electric Power (AEP) reached an agreement in principle that would resolve the future of power generation in eastern Kentucky after the retirement of the coal fired generators at the Big Sandy Power Plant near Louisa, Kentucky in 2015. The proposed deal commits American Electric Power subsidiary Kentucky Power to invest in a host of clean energy and energy efficiency programs along with a focus on new low-income community development investments in Lawrence County. Both coal fired units of the plant were previously scheduled for retirement and this agreement will see some of the new power coming from a plant in Moundsville, West Virginia owned by AEP subsidiary Ohio Power.

“Kentucky Power has taken a step in the right direction,” said Alice Howell, chair of the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club in Kentucky. “It is critical that we continue to look for ways to support economic transition investments in Eastern Kentucky as coal-related jobs disappear, while creating a clean energy future based around home grown economic development and smart energy solutions. This deal starts us along that path.”

The agreement commits Kentucky Power to significantly increase its energy efficiency investments over the next five years. From three million dollars this year, to four million in 2014, five million in 2015 and six million in investments per year from 2016 to 2018 and to continue at that level thereafter. These instate energy efficiency investments are likely to bring jobs directly into the Kentucky Power service areas while decreasing the total energy consumption of eastern Kentucky.

“Investment in energy efficiency creates local, good paying jobs,” continued Howell. “Weatherization, home efficiency inspections and the other activities bound up in thoughtful energy efficiency programs serve the people in local communities directly by lowering energy bills and employing our family members and neighbors in the process of making our own communities more energy efficient.”

Further, the agreement commits Kentucky Power to incorporating a request for 100 megawatts of wind power into their upcoming integrated resource planning (IRP) process. The IRP process essentially creates the blue print for where electricity will be generated and where the company will buy electricity over the next few years.

“Investing in wind power is an investment in the future of Kentucky’s economy,” explains Nachy Kanfer, a senior official with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign. “When we spend our energy dollars upgrading our power to clean, renewable energy sources what we’re really doing is spending it on American workers.  Wind power is expanding every day and is becoming increasingly vital to the 21st century energy mix. Kentucky has the opportunity to be on the forefront of this new economic movement and this agreement takes us one step closer to that future.”

Finally, the agreement pledges Kentucky Power Company to invest $500,000 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.

“Responsible investment in Lawrence County by Kentucky Power is critical to the region’s long term well-being,” concludes Howell. “Responsible retirement of coal-fired power plants like Big Sandy must include a just transition for the workers affected by the retirement. Kentucky Power’s commitment to job training in the region is a strong first step in that direction.”

Source: sierraclub.org