AEP, owner of SWEPCO, announces accelerated move away from coal to renewable energy | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

AEP, owner of SWEPCO, announces accelerated move away from coal to renewable energy

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 11:35 AM

click to enlarge THE PAST: Coal-fired power plants such as the Turk Plant in Hempstead County are not what SWEPCO power generation will look like in the future, the parent company says.
  • THE PAST: Coal-fired power plants such as the Turk Plant in Hempstead County are not what SWEPCO power generation will look like in the future, the parent company says.
AEP, or American Electric Power, was once the country's biggest user of coal to generate electricity. It announced today a continuation of a change in direction away from coal to renewable energy.

AEP, through its SWEPCO subsidiary, operates coal-burning plants in Arkansas, including a the Turk Plant in Southwest Arkansas that may prove the last of a kind to be built.

AEP announced today release of a report for a "clean energy" future. (Don't tell Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. She has been fighting for haze, particulates and saving money for electric utilities by not requiring them to clean up.) It's worth quoting AEP's release at length. Note that the plan includes serving Arkansas with wind power. That's a concept,  in the form of the Clean Line project,that Arkansas Republicans in Congress have fought tooth and nail.

In the report, AEP outlines a business strategy that will lead to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from its power plants of 60 percent from 2000 levels by 2030 and 80 percent from 2000 levels by 2050.

AEP expects to achieve its carbon dioxide emission reductions through a variety of actions including investments in renewable generation and advanced technologies; investment in transmission and distribution systems to enhance efficiency; increased use of natural gas generation; and expanded demand response and energy efficiency programs.

"AEP is focused on modernizing the power grid, expanding renewable energy resources and delivering cost-effective, reliable energy to our customers," said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer. "Our customers want us to partner with them to provide cleaner energy and new technologies, while continuing to provide reliable, affordable energy. Our investors want us to protect their investment in our company, deliver attractive returns and manage climate-related risk. This long-term strategy allows us to do both."

AEP's resource plans include adding 3,065 megawatts (MW) of solar generation and 5,295 MW of wind generation to the portfolio serving its regulated utility customers by 2030. AEP's largest planned renewable energy investment is the $4.5 billion, 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher Energy Connection project in Oklahoma. If approved, Wind Catcher will be the largest contiguous wind farm in the U.S. and will deliver nearly 9 million megawatt-hours of low-cost wind energy annually to AEP customers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Wind Catcher approval would accelerate how quickly AEP can add new wind generation to its portfolio.

AEP also is investing in renewable energy in competitive markets. Between 2018 and 2020, the company plans to invest approximately $1.2 billion in contracted renewables and renewables integrated with energy storage.

To enhance the efficiency and resiliency of the energy delivery system, AEP's strategy includes plans to invest nearly $13 billion over the next three years in its transmission and distribution system.

AEP has factored future carbon regulations into the company's evaluation of generation resource options for many years and will continue to do so. The company already has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 44 percent since 2000.

AEP's generation capacity has gone from 70 percent coal-fueled in 2005 to 47 percent today. Its natural gas capacity increased from 19 percent in 2005 to 27 percent today, and its renewable generation capacity has increased from 4 percent in 2005 to 13 percent today.

"This transition to a more balanced resource portfolio will help mitigate risk for our customers and shareholders alike and ensure a more resilient and reliable energy system into the future," Akins said.

No matter how hard Trump tries, the future for coal looks, well, hazy.

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