AEP Ohio files plans to develop 900 MW of solar, wind
AEP Ohio is moving ahead with the terms of a settlement approved late in 2016, part of which aims to create a solar manufacturing economy in the state’s Appalachian region. The settlement related to a plan to close certain coal plants and modernize the state’s energy infrastructure, along with the utility’s attempts at keeping other coal plants open. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to develop at least 500 MW of wind and 400 MW of solar energy projects.
While AEP Ohio could purchase renewable energy in the PJM Interconnection market, and there is sufficient energy available, company spokesman Scott Blake told Utility Dive that a big part of this is about developing the resources and jobs within the state, particularly in Appalachia.
“There is a real desire for additional renewable generation in the state,” Blake said.
But the survey also revealed an enthusiasm gap. While more than three quarters of residential customers said they would be willing to pay more to increase the use of renewable energy, only 54% in the commercial and industrial (C&I) space said they would be willing.
“I think one factor there may be scale,” said Blake. “C&I have much greater usage than average residential customers and may be a little more in tune with what even more small changes can do. There is some additional consideration they’re giving to their own profit margins.”
The level of support for the wind and solar projects is important, as is how the utility demonstrates their necessity. Opponents of the projects will likely argue that AEP Ohio could simply purchase renewable energy on the open market, Daniel Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director at NRDC, told Utility Dive.
“There’s definitely going to be a debate over customers paying a non-bypassable charge,” Sawmiller said, as opponents will likely argue the new projects are unnecessary. “That will be a contentious point in the case. But the way I read the application, there seems to be plenty of wiggle room on where numbers could land.”