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AEP’s bid for Ohio’s largest solar farm could be ‘landmark case’ for state’s energy industy

AEP’s bid for Ohio’s largest solar farm could be ‘landmark case’ for state’s energy industy
Business, construction and development leaders in Appalachia are rallying in support of AEP’s plan to build the largest solar farm in Ohio history.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio held its first public hearing on AEP Ohio’s plan to build two significant solar farms in Highland County: Highland Solar Farm, which would come in at 300 megawatts, and Willowbrook Solar Farm, at 100 megawatts. If completed, the former would become the state’s largest solar farm.

In a standing-room-only meeting, economic development leaders said the project could see economic investment in a part of the state that was just this year racked by the closure of two coal-fired power plants. About 50 residents and community groups spoke during the meeting Tuesday morning.

“This is bigger than AEP. This could really be a landmark case for Ohio solar energy,” Marc Reitter, AEP’s vice president of regulatory and finance, told me at the meeting. “This could be a catalyst for economic growth in an area that … has seen disinvestment.”

AEP says the construction of these facilities would bring $24 million in new state tax revenue and $6.7 million in local tax revenue, with Ohio materials preferred to source the project. Construction also would support 4,000 jobs, including 113 permanent manufacturing jobs in the solar supply chain.

The utility, which serves 1.3 million residential and 200,000 commercial customers in the state, says it plans to develop 900 megawatts of renewable energy production in the state as part of $33 billion in infrastructure work.

“We are routinely running into barriers attracting commerce and foreign firms because of a lack of renewable energy available,” said John Molinaro, president and CEO of the Appalachian Partnership Inc., a Nelsonville-based economic development group. “Most e-commerce and (foreign direct investment) require renewable energy. We lose those opportunities when we can’t provide that.”

In a standing-room-only PUCO meeting, economic development leaders said the project could see economic investment in a part of the state that was just this year racked by the closure of two coal-fired power plants.

In a standing-room-only PUCO meeting, economic development leaders said the project could see economic investment in a part of the state that was just this year racked by the closure of two coal-fired power plants.

 

Source: Columbus Business First

www.bizjournals.com

By:  Tristan Navera – Staff reporter, Columbus Business First

LINK: https://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/news/2018/12/05/aeps-bid-for-ohios-largest-solar-farm-could-be.htm

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Ken, 

I was at the PUCO hearing yesterday about the AEP solar farm proposal.  If I had known it would get so much press I might not have gone.  There was no opposition expressed.  All the comments were in support of jobs, investment, tax revenue, and renewable energy.  If it had been a fracking discussion the only difference would have been the energy technology being supported.  Appalachia is really in bad shape!  Perhaps there is an opportunity for increasing residential solar in Appalachia as the result of AEP’s project. 

The next hearing is scheduled for Jan 15th.  Actual PUCO discussion of the solar project will be later in the spring.  I’m really glad I went to this one. 

The Ohio Consumer Council had a handout explaining that AEP is trying to pull a fast one by owning the proposed generating facility.  I’ve attached the pdf version of that handout.  One of the first things Kasich did as governor was to cut the OCC budget by half. 

Today’s Ecowatch has a very interesting article from the Union of Concerned Scientists about how the Koch brothers are trying to kill electric vehicles.  They have to be worried.  If I sold gasoline I would be worried.  https://www.ecowatch.com/will-koch-pull-the-plug-on-electric-cars-2622472772.html  

Stay warm…

Tom Evans

Here is the pdf of the Ohio Consumer Council handout:

OCC_Factsheet_AEP 900 MW Proposal 2018 (Factsheet_AEP 900 MW Proposal 2018.pdf;1)

==========================

Text from Fact Sheet:

AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER

900 MEGAWATT

PROPOSAL

 

The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) has

moved to intervene on behalf of residential

consumers where AEP-Ohio wants

government approval to add regulated

charges for 900 monopoly megawatts of

power plants to the electric bills of its

1.5 million captive consumers. But 20

years ago, the Ohio General Assembly

decided that the competitive market – not

monopolies like AEP and not government

regulation by the PUCO – will be the

arbiter for power plant construction and

operation. In the marketplace, renewable

energy and other fuel sources can compete

in accordance with customer demand.

 

The key issue here is not about the merits

of renewable energy such as wind and solar,

as AEP has cast it. The key issue is fulfilling

the Ohio General Assembly’s vision for

an Ohio energy future based on power

plant competition for delivering lower

prices and higher innovation to millions of

Ohioans. There, in the market, renewable

energy and other fuel sources can compete

for customers without the government

selection of winners and losers in the

power plant market as AEP proposes.

 

Already, according to AEP’s own data,

AEP has been charging Ohioans the

highest residential bills and extracting

from Ohioans the highest profits of

any AEP utility providing service in

the United States. AEP’s proposal for

monopoly-developed power plants

should be viewed in the context of yet

another above-market charge (another

so-called “rider”) to be layered on a

million consumers’ electric bills.

 

The linchpin for AEP’s proposal is

a small exception in the law (under

R.C. 4928.143(B)(2)(c)) that allows

monopolies like AEP to own or operate

power plants if needed by consumers.

The exception requires, among other

things, a demonstrated consumer need

for the monopoly’s power plant. And the

PUCO has determined that monopoly
generation can only be authorized when

power generation needs cannot be met

through the competitive market.

 

But consumers do not have a need for

900 monopoly megawatts of power

from AEP. AEP has admitted that the

900 MW solar and wind facilities are

not needed to serve its customers

reliably or to meet Ohio’s renewable

generation mandates. Under the

proposal, AEP will sell all the capacity

and energy associated with these

proposed solar and wind projects in

the regional electricity market and

collect the losses (more likely) from

customers and pass along any profits

(less likely) from these transactions.

 

And captive consumers should not

be on the hook, as AEP proposes, for

paying the net costs of all of the energy

produced by the proposed monopoly

plants over the next 20 years. On top

of that, AEP would charge captive

customers approximately $100 million,

through a so-called “debt equivalency

cost” that is unsubstantiated and has not

been part of existing renewable energy

projects constructed in the market

(with private not utility funding).

 

The PUCO has scheduled the

following public hearing for

this case:

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

Hearing Room 11-A

180 East Broad Street, 11th Floor

Columbus, Ohio 43215

 

Customers can voice their opinion

online by visiting the PUCO website:

www.puco.ohio.gov and clicking

on “Make a Comment” under the

“CONTACT US” tab. Enter either

18-0501-EL-FOR or 18-1392-EL-RDR

for docket case number.

 

Customers can also write the PUCO.

All letters and envelopes should

include the customer’s name and

address and reference the case

numbers: 18-0501-EL-FOR or

18-1392-EL-RDR.

 

The PUCO’s address is:

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

Docketing Division

180 E. Broad Street, 11th Floor

Columbus, Ohio 43215-3793

 

Three Quick Tips on Testifying at

a Local Public Hearing

The idea of public speaking makes

some people nervous. The best way

to approach giving public testimony

is to prepare beforehand. Here are

three quick tips that will make the

experience easier and more effective:

·        „ Write a short statement or

·        outline;

·        „ Be brief and to the point;

·        „ Practice in front of family or friends.

 

Office of the Ohio

Consumers’ Counsel

65 East State Street

7th Floor, Columbus, OH

43215-4213

E-MAIL:

occ@occ.ohio.gov

WEBSITE:

www.occ.ohio.gov

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