PA Coal Alliance: Study proves need for energy policy examination

Feb 05, 2014, 14:00 ET from Pennsylvania Coal Alliance

MONESSEN, Pa., Feb. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A state-based study showing that increasing energy costs are straining the budgets of lower and middle-income Pennsylvanians underlines the need to examine the factors that are driving up costs and compromising the reliability of the electric supply, the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance said today.

Alliance CEO John Pippy, reacting to a study commissioned by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, reiterated his call for legislative hearings to find out why costs are increasing and why PJM Interconnect, the organization that operates the regional power grid, did not have access to reasonably priced wholesale power during the recent cold weather.

The ACCCE study, which updates a 2011 state-based analysis, said 49 percent of Pennsylvania households now spend an average of 19 percent of their after-tax income on energy.  Energy bills for the poorest Pennsylvanians take as much as 72 percent of their family incomes, the study said.

"The alarming thing is that this study was completed before PJM had to request special permission to exceed a $1,000 per megawatt-hour price cap on wholesale power during the recent polar vortex," Pippy said.  "As a result, many Pennsylvanians are in for considerable sticker shock as they receive their electric bills over the next couple of months."

The average wholesale price in the PJM region last year was $42 per megawatt-hour, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Pippy noted that federal emission standards resulted in the closing of three coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania last year, and recently proposed standards would force the closing of many more.

"The new standards fail to take into account what is achievable with current technology," Pippy said.  "As a result, the federal government is unilaterally taking coal out of the nation's energy mix, much to the detriment of Pennsylvania's economy and the state's energy consumers."

Coal-fired electricity is significantly more affordable than some other energy sources, and is much less susceptible to wild price swings, he explained.  Moreover, technology has helped to greatly reduce coal emissions of sulfur, nitrogen, particulates and even carbon, he noted, although imposing unachievable standards would have the effect of discouraging the advance of clean-coal technology.

"As I have often said, no energy source is perfect, but coal has its place in the nation's energy mix," Pippy said.  "We don't need to choose between environmental quality and affordable, reliable electricity.  We can have both."

ACCCE's Pennsylvania report can be viewed here.  

SOURCE Pennsylvania Coal Alliance