February 28, 2018 Read More →

Power Giant AEP Talks Up Clean Energy, but Coal Is Still King in Its Portfolio

InsideClimate News:

Environmentalists are pleased, though, with AEP’s new commitments to renewables and wind.

The company is seeking approval for a 2,000-megawatt wind farm in Oklahoma. It’s planning a 400-megawatt solar project in the Appalachian region of Ohio. It’s also working with electric vehicle charging infrastructure initiatives in Ohio.

“A corporation the size of AEP and the influence of AEP and the heavy coal portfolio within AEP—this can carry a lot of weight,” NRDC’s Sawmiller said of AEP’s plan.

But he said he’d like to see more advocacy from AEP right in its headquarters state of Ohio to help overturn strict wind siting regulations that were inserted into the 2014 state budget, effectively bringing wind development to a halt. The company says it’s waiting for a clearer picture of what replacement legislation will emerge.

From 2000 through 2016, AEP’s emissions dropped by 73 million metric tons, or about 44 percent. From 2017 through 2030, the company estimates its emissions will fall by an additional 27 million metric tons, or about 29 percent, to a low of around 67 million metric tons. That means that the annual rate of decline will fall—slower progress, not faster.

And the overall achievement is exaggerated a bit because AEP uses a baseline in the year 2000, when emissions were higher than in 2005, the year most other companies with emissions reduction goals use for comparisons of this kind.

AEP and others say the slowdown is due to how easy it was to pick the low-hanging fruit early on, including jettisoning the oldest and costliest coal plants. Since 2000, AEP has retired 7,200 megawatts of coal plants and sold 2,665 megawatts of coal capacity to other utilities.
“I think the reality will be that these numbers will be a lot larger by the time you get into the late 20s,” said David Schlissel director of resource planning analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“The U.S. energy economy is in the midst of a major energy transition—a transition that’s unstoppable by the Trump administration and coal industry. And they are reflecting that in their plan,” Schlissel said. “This plan tells me they recognize that they can make a profit and survive the energy transition.”

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