You may have noticed that the local "newspapers" have started using "war on affordable electricity" instead of "war on coal." I think that's because they figure that appealing to the pocketbook is more likely to persuade the audience. Beyond their assertions and use of questionable evidence that electricity will skyrocket as we move to other sources, the newspapers have not only ignored the secondary costs of coal-fired electricity generation, they've failed to cover the non-EPA factors that tend to make the coal-generated form of electricity more expensive.
While they frequently use the term, my hunch is that the "newspapers" are in favor of "affordable electricity" only in so far that it affects coal companies' and electric companies' bottom line.
On Saturday the Charleston Gazette-Daily Mail published a well-developed article by their business editor, Andrew Brown, that explains a suit brought by West Virginia Attorney General Partick Morrisey and 12 other state attorney general's against the PJM Interconnection:
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has joined a legal brief awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could impact regional electricity prices, the power grid’s resiliency and the ability of West Virginia businesses to offset rising utility rates.
The case — Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Electric Power Supply Association — deals with “demand response,” in which groups of electric users, usually large industrial or commercial businesses, sign an agreement to stop using electricity when the grid needs them to.
The lawsuit itself stems from federal orders from 2008 and 2011 that allowed companies to use their demand response — or their reduction in electricity use — to compete in regional powers markets with traditional energy generators like coal and natural gas plants.
Those moves have helped reduce wholesale prices, balance electricity supply and demand and allowed participating businesses to benefit financially by shutting down operations when called upon. But many power producers don’t like companies with demand response competing with coal and other generation plants in the regional markets.
Here are the two sides:
The position of the attorneys general, the traditional electricity producers and several public service and utility commissions is disputed by a host of parties including a group of energy law professors, consumer advocates, 14 utility companies from the Northeast and PJM, which manages the largest energy market in the world for 61 million people, including West Virginians.
On the attorney general/power plant side:
Some power producers argue it reduces the amount of profit they can make from the facilities and can push some power plants, which might be needed in the future, out of business.
And on the other:
Engineers, consumer advocates and grid operators argue that the use of demand response saves customers money, is more effective than additional generation at times and often out-competes plants that are the “oldest and most polluting in the fleet.”
This is a complex issue and my summary doesn't do justice to Andrew Brown's well-developed and thorough explanation of the case. My hunch is that our local "newspapers" will continue to ignore this case because to fully explain the issues would undercut their rhetoric about the "war on affordable electricity." (It would also question the wisdom of Attorney General Morrisey's lawsuit - something that they have never done.) Okay, I don't think that the local "newspapers" will touch this issue -- if they do, it probably will be in the form of an editorial favoring Attorney General Morrisey's position in which they get to define the various sides.