In response to frigid temperatures and increases in energy costs, the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance is calling for a hearing to examine recent power supply problems.
The alliance points to the closing of three Pennsylvania coal-fired power plants on Oct. 9, including the Mitchell plant in Courtney and the Hatfield Ferry plant in Masontown, as a potential reason for the state’s sudden energy issues.
PA Coal Alliance CEO John Pippy said the lack of coal energy has strained available electricity.
“Because we don’t have the long-term reliable energy that coal provides, we’re seeing skyrocketed prices,” he said. “I think it will be hitting people as their next heating and electricity bills come in.”
PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid in 13 states, including Pennsylvania, was hesitant about closing the Pennsylvania power plants last year, but eventually announced that the closings would not have a negative impact on the regions power supply.
Last week, PJM asked the Federal Energy Regulation Commission for emergency approval to exceed a $1,000 per megawatt-hour price cap on purchased power. The average wholesale price last year was $42 per megawatt-hour, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Pippy said the increase could only have negative effects.
“If they’re exceeding that, that’s going to hit the ratepayers significantly and we believe part of the problem is that we’ve been prematurely eliminating coal from the power supply,” he said. “And as that happens, we don’t have the strong diversity we traditionally have had.”
PJM has not said how this will impact consumers, but the EIA estimated in January that some home heating bills could rise by 23 percent compared to last year. This was before the second wave of the polar vortex brought subzero temperatures to the region.
Earlier this week, PJM asked consumers to limit their electricity usage during peak hours of the day.
Pippy said lawmakers need to be the ones who regulate the energy supplies.
“It shouldn’t be coming from the coal industry,” he said. “It should be policymakers having those hearings and having the facts and hopefully making decisions based on reliable and accurate information.”
Pippy said the hearing should be finalized within the next 30 days.