Monthly Archives: May 2014

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Obama’s New EPA Rule Could Cost $51 Billion And 224,000 Jobs Per Year (IJReview)

A new study released by the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce has some dire warnings for the Administration’s recent proposals concerning lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposals, which require states to make major cuts in pollution from coal generators, will, by 2030, cost upwards of $51 billion and an average of 224,000 lost jobs per year.

And it’s not just those people working in the energy industry who will be affected:

The impacts of higher energy costs, fewer jobs, and slower economic growth are seen in lower real disposable income per household. … The loss of annual real disposable income over the 2012-30 period will average over $200, with a peak loss of $367 in 2025. This translates into a shortfall in total disposable income for all U.S. households of $586 billion (in real 2012 dollars) over the next 17 year period 2014-30.

(more…)

New federal power plant rules will raise electricity prices (AL.com)

By Hal Quinn

Surging electricity prices during this year’s harsh winter caught many consumers by surprise when their bill came due. The bad news is that electricity costs could get worse in the months and years ahead.

Many consumers already see this coming. According to a new Harris Poll of 2,058 adults conducted in April on behalf of the National Mining Association (NMA), more than three-quarters of Americans — 76 percent — worry that higher prices are ahead if regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) succeed in shutting down coal plants that produce over 40 percent of the nation’s electricity.

It is no surprise that worries over this issue are highest (88 percent) among those who already are particularly sensitive to cost increases, retirees and senior citizens living on fixed incomes.

Their fears are justified. The same survey also found this winter’s high electricity prices hit many Americans hard. Of the 76 percent of consumers responsible for paying their utility bills, more than half — 56 percent — said their day-to-day lives actually were affected by the higher bills this winter.

Those real-life impacts were significant. Almost a third of respondents (32 percent) said they were forced to set thermostats lower than was comfortable, and nearly one-fifth (19 percent) reported that higher electricity costs limited their ability to buy necessities such as food and healthcare—raising the possibility that lower-income households may have been forced to decide between heating their homes or eating a meal.

(more…)

Cleaner air could mean higher electric bills

NEW YORK – Electricity prices are probably on their way up across much of the U.S. as coal-fired plants, the dominant source of cheap power, shut down in response to environmental regulations and economic forces.

New and tighter pollution rules and tough competition from cleaner sources such as natural gas, wind and solar will lead to the closings of dozens of coal-burning plants across 20 states over the next three years. And many of those that stay open will need expensive retrofits.

Because of these and other factors, the Energy Department predicts retail power prices will rise 4 percent on average this year, the biggest increase since 2008. By 2020, prices are expected to climb an additional 13 percent, a forecast that does not include the costs of coming environmental rules.

Read the rest of the article

New Poll Finds Most Americans Worried EPA Regulations Will Lead to Higher Electricity Prices

Most consumers also concerned EPA policies will lead to black-outs and brown-outs

Washington, D.C. — Most Americans (76%) are at least somewhat worried that new regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove coal-powered electricity from the nation’s energy mix will lead to higher prices for consumers, according to an online survey of 2,058 adults conducted in April, 2014 by Harris Poll on behalf of the National Mining Association (NMA). The national poll also reveals that concern is greatest (88%) among retirees and these are people living on fixed incomes who are particularly sensitive to cost increases.

The survey highlights the very real impact the winter price surge had on household finances and quality of life. Of the 76% of Americans responsible for paying their utility bills and who had higher bills this winter over half (56%) said their day-to-day lives were impacted with these higher bills this winter. For example, those impacted said they were forced to set thermostats lower than was comfortable (32%) and forced to cut back on leisure activities (28%). Nearly one fifth (19%) also reported that higher electricity costs limited their ability to buy necessities, such as groceries, food and healthcare – suggesting lower-income households may have been forced to decide between heating their home and eating a meal.

“Americans are rightfully concerned about higher electricity prices. If EPA continues to push forward with unrealistic standards for coal-based power plants, consumers’ fears will become locked-in for the foreseeable future,” Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO, said. “The leap in electricity bills consumers saw this winter is as much the result of EPA’s policies as it is the cold weather.”

Read the rest of the release

Dominion seeks to recover roughly $300M in polar vortex fuel costs from customers

Rod Kuckro, E&E reporter

The extreme cold during this past winter’s polar vortex and subsequent weeks forced Dominion Virginia Power to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to cover the high cost of natural gas used to produce electricity as well as extra power bought in the PJM Interconnection’s wholesale market.

Now, the Richmond, Va.-based utility is asking the State Corporation Commission for permission to pass through those costs to consumers over two years, starting July 1.

“This winter we saw days and weeks so cold — driven by the ‘polar vortex’ phenomenon — that the price of natural gas and purchased power soared,” Dominion Virginia Power President Robert Blue said Friday.

“While gas was available, there were pipeline constraints at certain points on the coldest days. Had it not been for our diverse sources of generation, including nuclear and coal, electricity shortages might have occurred and this proposed fuel increase be even higher,” he said.

The requested 4.1 percent hike in residential customer rates would raise a typical 1,000-kilowatt-hour bill from $107.99 to $112.45 per month. Dominion said that commercial and industrial customers “should expect to see a proportionately higher impact because fuel makes up a larger component of their bills than it does for residential customers.”

David Botkins, a spokesman for Dominion, said fuel costs are about 27 percent of residential bills, while businesses can pay 35-50 percent of their bill for fuel.

Dominion proposes to collect an additional $133.7 million in fuel costs beginning July 1, 2015, a move it describes as mitigating the impact on consumers who “have already experienced very high energy bills due to the extreme weather this year.”

Under Virginia law, Dominion makes no profit on its fuel charge, which is passed through dollar for dollar to cover the utility’s actual costs for fuels such as coal, uranium, natural gas and oil, as well as purchased power.

The cost of wholesale purchased power soared during several days in January, exceeding the $1,000-per-megawatt-hour price cap. If Dominion had to buy during those relatively brief periods to meet customer electricity demand, it would have paid prices much higher than usual. Last week for example, the wholesale price in the PJM region was roughly $50 per MWh.

Dominion did not provide details as to how much it spent for natural gas during the cold weather in the first quarter or wholesale electricity purchases.

Dominion Virginia Power also wants the commission to approve an increase in its so-called transmission rider that it uses to maintain and improve its network and ensure reliability. The increase would amount to $1.91, or 1.7 percent, for a typical residential customer. It would take effect Sept. 1.

Fifty-eight percent of a residential bill is made up of base rates, which cover Dominion’s operating expenses such as storm recovery, system maintenance, general business and personnel costs. Expenses for specific infrastructure projects, such as new generation, transmission lines and substations, are covered by riders that make up about 15 percent of the bill.

Friday’s fuel rate increase request was not mentioned two days earlier during Wednesday’s presentation to Wall Street analysts on the company’s first-quarter earnings. Record peak demand for electricity in January helped drive earnings per share higher by 5 cents, President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Farrell said.

The only indication in the earnings report of the added expense for fuel and power was in the cash flow statement that listed a $304 million charge for “deferred fuel and purchased gas costs.”

Regulators have to approve Dominion’s proposed increase in its fuel charge. That was not the case with a proposed one-time charge on residential customers sought by FirstEnergy Corp. in six states.

FirstEnergy’s retail unit withdrew its $5-to-$15 surcharge after an outcry by regulators and consumers (EnergyWire, April 30).

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission has launched a probe into the surcharge “to determine whether it is unfair, misleading, deceptive or unconscionable” to impose such fees.