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Expert Says Rather Than Save Coal Plant, Help Community Move On

Pleasants .jpg
WV Governor's Office
The Pleasants Power Station was saved from closure by a $12 million tax break in 2019.

In Public Service Commission (PSC) testimony this week, the state’s consumer advocate suggests buying a struggling northern West Virginia power plant. But is it a good deal for ratepayers?

David Schlissel is director of resource planning analysis for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

He said the idea that Mon Power would buy the Pleasants Power Station in Pleasants County ignores the trends in the marketplace.

The consumer advocate said the Pleasants plant has pollution controls other plants lack.

Current trends, though, show that renewables account for an increasing share of electric power.

“West Virginia utilities and the coal companies, and some of your state officials, are basically standing at the beach and are putting their hands in the water to try to stop the tide," he said. "And the tide is the tremendous change that’s coming, in part, due to the Inflation Reduction Act, but a large part of it was coming anyway, towards renewables and battery storage.”

The state’s consumer advocate recommended that Mon Power purchase the Pleasants plant from Energy Harbor, which plans to shut down the plant next year.

Rather than have West Virginia ratepayers pay to own and operate an aging coal plant, Schlissel said it would be better for the state to help the community move on.

“The people in the communities that are affected, the workers, the state has to do something to help them get through the transition," he said. "Retraining, aid for communities, dollars for schools, fire, police, hospitals, whatever, that has to be done. Because those people have given West Virginia their lives to produce what was low cost power, but now isn’t.”

With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last year and the Inflation Reduction Act this year, billions of federal dollars are available for coal-impacted communities.

The Pleasants plant is among the 23 percent of coal-fired power plants nationwide that are currently scheduled to shut down by the end of the decade.

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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