FirstEnergy will not be permitted to immediately close its smaller plants in Ashtabula, Eastlake and Cleveland.
PJM Interconnection, the independent company that manages the high-voltage grid from Ohio to the East Coast, has determined that the closings would cause major voltage inadequacies and equipment overheating in the regional grid.
But it will cost rate payers a little extra to keep the plants operating and to pay for about $1 billion in ordered upgrades to the company’s high-voltage transmission system in the next three years.”
CINCINNATI — “Cincinnati hopes its energy supply will soon be cheaper and greener.The city said Thursday it will be the first major city in America to choose a 100 percent ‘green’ electricity supply for its eligible residents and small businesses while saving as many as 53,000 households money through the city’s Government Aggregation Program.The city has selected First Energy Solutions as the city’s new electricity provider through an aggregation process in which the city represents all eligible individual customers as one larger buying unit to negotiate a lower price on electricity.”
CINCINNATI — “Cincinnati will be the first major city in America to choose a 100% ‘green’ electricity supply for its eligible residents and small businesses while saving as many as 53,000 households money through the City’s Government Aggregation Program.
The City has selected First Energy Solutions (FES) as the City’s new electricity provider through an aggregation process in which the City represents all eligible individual customers as one larger buying unit to negotiate a lower price on electricity. Specifically, Cincinnati is collectively becoming a giant consumer to whom the green energy market can sell.
FES’s selection will save the average eligible household approximately $133 per year on their electricity bills. Energy aggregation was proposed by City Council and approved by voters in November 2011.”
— Meg Olberding, Communications Director, City of Cincinnati
For a week, AEP has been running a commercial that depicts FirstEnergy as a man in a suit who is stealing from a girl’s lemonade stand. AEP said it is calling attention to the unfairness of a system that makes it too easy for competitors to take customers from the Columbus-based utility.
FirstEnergy disputes that and says AEP wants to hold its customers hostage to high prices.
The arguments are being made as the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio reviews a case that will set the level of a key fee for alternative electricity suppliers.
‘We felt there was some misinformation’ in the AEP ad, said Doug Colafella, a FirstEnergy spokesman. FirstEnergy has not taken its message to television, but Colafella did not rule it out.”
COLUMBUS — “American Electric Power Ohio has taken the unusual step of airing television ads in its ongoing debate with FirstEnergy Corporation over a pending rate case.
…At issue is a highly technical debate between the two utilities over AEP’s capacity charge, or how much the utility charges competitive suppliers for electricity they sell to customers in their service territory who switch. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is expected to make a ruling later this spring.
FirstEnergy Solutions and other competitive suppliers argue that AEP’s plan to charge $145 per megawatt-day for the first 21% of customers who switch, and $255 MW/day thereafter, is much higher than the market price for capacity, which will be $16 per megawatt-day in June.
AEP spokeswoman Terri Flora said with so many residential and small business customers now focused on the utility’s pending rate case, it made sense for the utility to explain their side of the story more publicly.”
The cooling tower of the Perry nuclear power plant.
PERRY — “Minor but potentially deadly mistakes involving radiation exposure of workers were a problem at the Perry nuclear power plant in 2011, say federal regulators.
The issue is the focus of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s annual public assessment of the power plant safety performance, beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Quail Hollow Resort, 11080 Concord Hambden Rd. in Painesville.
The NRC believes that overall, Perry operated safely over the last year. But the errors have put Perry under the microscope. The NRC has demanded that the plant develop a program to end the mistakes.
In a March 5 letter to Perry’s owner, the First Energy Nuclear Operating Co. of Akron, Cynthia D. Pederson, head of the NRC’s Midwest region, wrote that performance at the plant during the last year ‘continued to exhibit weaknesses in the area of human performance with 12 findings identified.’”
EASTLAKE — “FirstEnergy Corp.’s coal-fired power plant in Eastlake may have a second chance and avoid closing in September after the corporation announced its intent to look at new technology options.
FirstEnergy Generation Corp., a subsidiary of FirstEnergy, filed an application for a feasibility study that will look to see how the addition of four combustion turbines would affect the site, and the energy needs of northern Ohio.
A reliability analysis by PJM Interconnection determined that retiring the coal-burning units would negatively impact the area, particularly in peak events when many customers are running air conditioning on hot days.”
The International Coal Group mine remains idle in Sago, West Virginia. The mine has remained closed since an explosion on January 2nd, 2006 killed 12 miners.
NEW YORK, NY — “In the world of energy politics, the sudden vanishing of the word ‘coal’ is a remarkable and unprecedented event.
As anyone who is reading this surely knows, there is no energy source that is more emblematic of the past than coal. We still burn nearly a billion tons of it a year in America, almost all of it to generate electricity. But it is a dirty, inefficient, planet-cooking fuel whose supporters have pushed into the 21st Century with slick ads for “clean coal,” an army of high-powered lobbyists, and big checks for politicians. And until recently, it’s worked. The secret of Big Coal’s success has always been its political power. In the regions where it is mined and burned, coal mining companies – as well as the railroads that haul it and the power companies that burn it – are deeply wired into state and local governments. They have worked long and hard to convince the hacks in city halls and state houses that their economic future depends on burning more and more coal, and that any shift away from coal, or, worse, any crackdown on environmental regulations, will bring about not just economic chaos, but blackouts.
Nowhere has the political power of coal been more obvious than in presidential campaigns. The conventional wisdom has always been that if you want a seat in the Oval Office, you need Big Coal states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. And to win them, you need to buy into the myth that we are going to power the 21st Century pretty much the same way we powered the 19th.”
WASHINGTON, DC — “Although still the largest single fuel for electricity generation, coal’s share of monthly power generation in the United States dropped below 40% in November and December 2011. The last time coal’s share of total generation was below 40% for a monthly total was March 1978. A combination of mild weather (leading to a drop in total generation) and the increasing price competitiveness of natural gas relative to coal contributed to the drop in coal’s share of total generation.
Natural gas prices have dropped significantly this winter, leading the generators in some states (such as Ohio and Pennsylvania) to significantly increase the share of natural gas-fired generation. Natural gas combined-cycle units operate at higher efficiency than do older, coal-fired units, which increases the competitiveness of natural gas relative to coal.
Total electricity generation was down 7% in December 2011 compared to December 2010 (see chart below). Despite this decline, generation from natural gas rose 12% to 86 terawatthours. Coal-fired generation, however, fell by 21% between December 2010 and December 2011, to 132 terawatthours.”
The FirstEnergy Corp.is considering installing four large gas combustion turbines in the power plant in Eastlake.
EASTLAKE — “FirstEnergy Corp. today said it is considering purchasing and installing four large combustion turbines at its Eastlake power plant to replace the coal-fired boilers it intends to close at the site.
The company did not release an estimated price tag for the project, but a spokesman said the company would not pass on the cost to the public.
The turbines are capable of burning either natural gas or oil and can generate up to 800 megawatts. But they would run only when demand for power was expected to outpace the supply of electricity flowing over the high-voltage grid in the region.
In comparison, the Perry nuclear power plant, which operates around the clock, generates more than 1,200 megawatts. One megawatt, or 1 million watts, is enough to supply 800 to 1,000 homes.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “The Union of Concerned Scientists has documented 15 “near-misses” at 13 U.S. nuclear plants during 2011 and evaluates the response of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to each event in a report released today.
The second in an annual series of reports, “The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety 2011 Report: Living on Borrowed Time” details 15 special inspections launched by the federal agency in response to problems with safety equipment, security shortcomings, and other troubling events at nuclear power plants.
The overview is provided by David Lochbaum, the director of UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project. He worked at U.S. nuclear plants for 17 years and was a boiling water reactor technology instructor for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
‘While none of the safety problems in 2011 caused harm to plant employees or the public, their frequency – more than one per month – is high for a mature industry,’ Lochbaum writes.”
COLUMBUS — “A new analysis is shedding light on a little-known source of toxic air pollution. Industrial boilers are the on-site power plants used by major industrial operations. They are believed to be contributing to the deaths of thousands of people across the country and in Ohio.
A report from Earthjustice finds these boilers are releasing millions of pounds of toxic pollutants into the air, including 800 pounds of mercury each year in Ohio alone. Earthjustice staff attorney Jim Pew explains that so much mercury can do a lot of damage.
‘Less than a teaspoon is enough to contaminate a 20-acre lake to the point where that lake is not safe to eat fish from, so 800 pounds is a remarkable amount – especially given that Ohio has other sources of mercury, as well.’
Among the states, Ohio ranks second for boiler emissions of mercury and first for lead and chromium emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing tighter boiler air-pollution standards that will bring industrial plants into Clean Air Act compliance, like other power plants. Some in the industry fear the planned federal rules could slow economic growth.”
WASHINGTON, DC — “After 20 years of delay and litigation by polluters, the Obama administration approved in December one of the most important rules in the history of the Clean Air Act. It will require power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants by more than 90 percent in the next five years and is expected to prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths annually from asthma, other respiratory diseases and heart attacks.
The technology to control the pollutants is readily available. The health benefits far outweigh the costs to the power companies.
…It is true that the mercury rule, and other clean air regulations, will require substantial upgrades in older, coal-burning power plants and force others to close down. The power companies have had years to prepare. In addition to reducing emissions of global warming gases and ground-level pollutants, the upgrades are expected to create as many as 45,000 temporary construction jobs over the next five years and possibly 8,000 permanent jobs.”
WEST VIRGINIA — “A study released Thursday points primarily to market factors, not environmental regulation as the driving force behind coal plant closures.
While environmental regulations have received the bulk of attention when it comes time to close a coal-fired plant, closure are generally known to be a result of multiple factors. A new study conducted by Susan Tierney managing principal at the Analysis group, an economic, financial and strategy consultant group, finds market factors, not the Environmental Protection Agency, have driven coal plant closures.
Tierney also served as assistant energy secretary during the Clinton administration.
‘Putting aside the political context of the current debate, a closer examination of the facts reveals that the recent retirement announcements are part of a longer‐term trend that has been affecting both existing coal plants and many proposals to build new ones,’ Tierney wrote. ‘The sharp decline in natural gas prices, the rising cost of coal and reduced demand for electricity are all contributing factors in the decisions to retire some of the country’s oldest coal‐fired generating units. These trends started well before EPA issued its new air pollution rules.’”
YOUNGSTOWN — “FirstEnergy announced Wednesday it will shut down three aging coal-fired power plants in West Virginia later this year, in addition to the six coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland that already are scheduled to be retired.
The decision means there will be fewer plants to meet the demands for power, and that has the potential to increase the electric rates for FirstEnergy customers across most of northern Ohio and in the central part of the state, including Toledo, Cleveland and Youngstown.
Durbin said those nine plants are responsible for about 12 percent of the electricity the company produces.
For now, electricity prices should remain relatively low. About two weeks ago, the utilities commission announced that customers can expect electricity prices to decrease this summer after it approved the results of the fourth in a series of six wholesale auctions that will determine FirstEnergy’s retail generation service rates through May 2014.
The auction establishes a new generation price of $53.37 per megawatt hour (MWh) for June 2012 through May 2013, a decrease of 4 percent from the current price of $55.60 per MWh.
‘There are so many factors in the marketplace, and [the retirements] would only affect the generation portion’ of the bill, which is about two-thirds of an electric bill, Durbin said.
The other third of the bill includes distribution and service charges.”
Letters to Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman
6,615 members have sent handwritten letters and petitions to Senator Brown urging him to support US EPA rules that will protect our health from polluting coal plants as of January 24, 2012.
3,751 members have petitioned Senator Portman urging him to support US EPA rules that will protect our health from polluting coal plants as of January 24, 2012.
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