Curtis Tate Published

Coal Plants Customers Will Pay To Upgrade Sat Idle For Parts Of 2021

Federal data show a northern West Virginia power plant was idle for a portion of last year as regulators approved a plan to upgrade the plant and charge ratepayers for it.

Unit 1 at the Mitchell Power Plant generated no electricity for three months in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Unit 2 at the plant, in Marshall County, was idle for one month.

The plant is jointly operated by American Electric Power subsidiaries Kentucky Power and Wheeling Power. West Virginia Public Service Commission is currently considering the sale of Kentucky Power to Algonquin Power.

AEP officials testified to the commission on Thursday that one of Mitchell’s units is currently idle.

Last year, the PSC approved wastewater treatment upgrades that’ll enable Mitchell and two other coal-burning plants in West Virginia to remain in operation beyond 2028. West Virginia ratepayers will be responsible for the cost.

Critics have questioned whether all three plants will be needed as coal continues to lose ground to natural gas and renewables.

The same federal data show that units at the Mountaineer and John Amos power plants were also idle for portions of 2021.

Mountaineer, in Mason County, did not generate electricity for two months in 2021. John Amos, in Putnam County, has three units. One unit at the plant was idle for three months, and the remaining units were idle for two months.

In total, the upgrades will cost ratepayers $448 million.

Officials also testified that both of Mitchell’s units, which are 50 years old, have significant corrosion from decades of burning high-sulfur coal. That suggests more costs going forward for ratepayers, in addition to the wastewater treatment upgrades.