Why the rate hikes?
- The cost of coal delivered to the electric power sector in WV increased 70% from 2000 to 2009.
- Much of the recent rate increases can be attributed to what the PSC described as an “extraordinary” spike in coal prices in 2008. This spike was the result of growing international demand for coal, combined with temporary shortages from major producers like China and Australia. Because of the spike in coal prices, some of Appalachian Power's suppliers – including Massey Energy – allegedly failed to fulfill their long-term coal delivery contracts because they could get higher prices for their coal elsewhere. This spike was the main reason why, in 2009, Appalachian Power asked the Public Service Commission for a 43% rate increase and Mon Power and Potomac Edison requested a 20% rate increase.
- The recession has also contributed to increased rates, particularly for Mon Power and Potomac Edison. The recession drove down power demand and electricity prices on the regional electric grid. With lower power prices, Mon Power's old coal plants were unable to compete as well and so it was not economic for Mon Power to run them as often to sell power to the grid. This meant that the utility's expected revenue from generating power declined.
- Less than 20% of Appalachian Power's rate increases can be attributed to the cost of installing pollution control equipment. Almost none of Mon Power and Potomac Edison's recent rate increases are due to pollution control equipment; the last major project, scrubbers at the Fort Martin Power Plant were incorporated into rates in 2007.
- Because so much of West Virginia's electricity is from coal, coal prices and electricity rates track each other closely.
The dominance of coal in our electricity supply puts us at the mercy of future unexpected events that lead to volatility in coal prices. But the trend of rising coal prices indicates that the days of cheap electricity in West Virginia are over.
bills have remained high ever since.