energy

J. Tyler Franklin

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear unveiled a new energy strategy for the state Wednesday without mentioning climate change, its impacts or goals to curb carbon emissions.

The strategy focuses on promoting “all of Kentucky’s energy resources” in order to power and promote growth for a more resilient economy with an emphasis on production, manufacturing and transportation, according to the strategy document.

“The Commonwealth has and will remain an energy hub powering the nation while manufacturing goods for the global marketplace,” Beshear said during the virtual conference on energy and the environment.   

The plan, dubbed “E3” for energy, environment and economic development, used words that nod to the impacts of climate change, but never actually mentions the elephant in the room, or any serious plans to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Ryan Van Velzer

State utility regulators have upheld the value of rooftop solar and established new rates for net-metering customers with Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities. 

Under the revised rates, LG&E and KU customers who want to put solar on their homes will be credited about 7 cents per kilowatt hour for the excess energy they put back onto the grid, according to last week’s order

That’s less than the one-to-one retail rate LG&E and KU customers received before, but more than the 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour that the utility wanted to pay.

LG&E spokesperson Chris Whelan says that rate is the same as what they would pay for the wholesale cost to produce the power. 

Electric Vehicles Energizing Kentucky Economy

Sep 28, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

It’s National Drive Electric Week and corporations are making major investments in electric vehicle technologies benefiting Kentucky.

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. and making the transition away from fossil fuels will require large investments.

To that end, Ford Motor Company is announcing its single biggest manufacturing investment in its history at the same time that utilities are working toward building a network of charging stations along major highways. 

Ford announced plans Monday to bring thousands more jobs to Kentucky to build batteries for electric vehicles.

Duke Energy

Advocates are urging Kentucky to develop solar energy projects on farms and abandoned coal mines as the state considers expanding its renewable energy portfolio.

Developers have been planning and building large-scale solar projects around the state—some more successfully than others—as the technology becomes more affordable and pressure increases to develop renewable energy.

During a joint hearing of the legislature’s Natural Resources and Agriculture committees on Wednesday, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman said the state has the land and energy markets necessary for solar.

“There’s a corporate demand for renewable electricity. Economic development and that corporate demand will continue to be primary movers toward encouraging solar development in Kentucky,” Goodman said.

Katie Myers

Bennett Quillen walks through a late August downpour check on his fall crop, and sees that his greasy beans are coming ripe. He learned how to farm from his father, and he’s determined to model environmental stewardship for his community.

“I believe in taking care of the land,” Quillen says. “I want to leave the land better than I found it.”

Quillen’s story is pretty common in  this part of Eastern Kentucky.  His grandfather was a coal miner, his father was a coal miner, and he was too.  Now, Quillen is retired.  He lives with his wife in a house in Deane, Kentucky that his years underground paid for.

He grows vegetable and fruit crops on his acres of land. But hidden beneath his pastoral life are constant reminders of the legacy costs of the coal industry — both in his lungs and in the land around him.

Tiki Lucas via Creative Commons

Kentucky utility regulators reached a decision this week that could mean a northern West Virginia power plant will have to close years sooner than planned.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission on Thursday rejected Kentucky Power’s request to perform environmental compliance work on the Mitchell Plant near Moundsville, West Virginia.

Under federal rules, the coal-burning plant requires a new wastewater handling system to continue operating through 2040. Without it, the plant will have to close by the end of 2028.

The project’s total cost is $133.5 million, with Kentucky Power’s portion totaling $67 million. The company owns half the Mitchell Plant along with Wheeling Power. Both are subsidiaries of Ohio-based American Electric Power.

Kate Howard

Environmental and consumer groups have pushed for the early closure of a 50-year-old coal-fired power plant in West Virginia that serves electricity customers in both West Virginia and Kentucky.

They have an unlikely ally: Kentucky’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron.

In a filing last week with the Kentucky Public Service Commission, Cameron recommended the commission reject Kentucky Power’s request for $67 million in upgrades for the Mitchell Plant in Marshall County, West Virginia, paid for by its customers with a surcharge on their monthly bills.

Instead, Cameron said Kentucky Power, which owns a 50% share of the plant with Wheeling Power, should let it close in 2028. Both are subsidiaries of Ohio-based American Electric Power.

SouthernStar.com

An energy company based in Daviess County broke ground Tuesday on a solar project that will generate enough electricity to offset the facility’s annual power demand.

Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline will install a solar array at its corporate headquarters off State Route 56 in Owensboro.  The solar panels will be located on four acres in a field adjacent to the headquarters buidling. 

The project will make Southern Star’s headquarters, with 200 employees, the first known “net zero carbon-based energy facility of its size” in Owensboro. 

“Southern Star is committed to reducing its carbon footprint in all communities we serve," said President and CEO Jimmy Staton. "We are proud to mark the beginning of this journey in Owensboro.”

Kayrros

Appalachian coal mines emit more than a million tons of methane a year, and overall the region is the largest U.S. source of the potent greenhouse gas, according to new research.

The region was the source of 3 million tons of methane in 2019, 1.1 million tons of it from coal mining, according to European satellite data analyzed by Kayrros, a company focused on climate risk

In 2020, the region’s methane emissions declined to 2.4 million tons as the coronavirus pandemic lowered energy demand, but coal’s share of total emissions held to 1 million tons.

  

Updated May 18, 2021 at 1:07 PM ET

Enough rhetoric, it's time to act: that's the gist of a new report from the International Energy Agency, which says the world must bring about "a total transformation" of its energy systems if it hopes to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and minimize the worst effects of climate change.

Kentucky Utility Regulators Set Rooftop Solar Rate

May 18, 2021
Gray Watson/Creative Commons

Kentucky utility regulators have for the first time put a dollar figure to the electricity that rooftop solar customers generate when they put energy back on the grid.

They concluded that it’s worth a lot more than utilities want to pay net-metering customers. 

The Public Service Commission set the net metering rate at a little more than 9 and a half cents per kilowatt hour. That’s less than the one-to-one retail rate Kentucky Power customers received previously, but more than twice the 3 and a half cents per kwh that Kentucky Power wanted to pay to solar generators.

Friday’s order from the Public Service Commission sets rates for rooftop solar customers in the eastern part of the state with Kentucky Power, but it also sets precedent for how utility regulators will determine the value of rooftop solar in the future.

Shalina Chatlani | WPLN News (file)

Tennessee’s electric utility is starting the long process that could eventually lead to closure of its most-polluting coal plant.

Tennessee Valley Authority Jeff Lyash has already announced this month that it plans to end all coal power generation by 2035. And TVA spokesman Scott Brooks says the utility is beginning the preliminary review with the Cumberland Fossil Plant in Stewart County, which has two separate coal-fired units.

“These are the two largest coal units we have in our fleet,” Brooks says. “So if there’s any logic to it, it would make sense that we would start with our two largest units.”

The Cumberland plant produces enough power for more than 1 million homes. It also releases 8 million tons of carbon emissions into the air each year, as well as especially high mercury releases into the Cumberland River, according to the Sierra Club of Tennessee.

Google Earth

A Marathon oil refinery in eastern Kentucky is one of 13 refineries across the country that released harmful levels of a cancer-causing pollutant, according to a report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project.

Fence line readings for benzene jumped 233% between 2019 and 2020 at the Catlettsburg Marathon refinery near Ashland, and were 11% above action levels designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Benzene is a common pollutant found in oil and a known human carcinogen. The increase in benzene levels at the Catlettsburg Marathon refinery is likely the result of two leaks from March and October, said Eric Schaeffer, Environmental Integrity Project executive director.

LG&E’s Parent Company Paid No Federal Taxes Last Year

Apr 28, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

In a year when Kentuckians struggled to pay their utilities bills because of a global pandemic, Louisville Gas and Electric’s parent company paid nothing in federal taxes.

PPL reported around $900 million in pre-tax income last year and was one of 55 U.S. corporations that paid nothing in federal corporate income taxes, according to a report co-authored by Matt Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. 

Instead of paying tax at 21%, which is the federal statutory rate, they reported zero and actually got about $9 million back essentially as a tax rebate, Gardner said.

Ryan Van Velzer

The future of renewable energy in Kentucky, and who is going to pay for it, is taking shape at a hearing before Kentucky utility regulators.  

Kentucky Power is asking the Public Service Commission this week to lower the rates utilities pay residential solar customers for power they produce. That’s the billing system known as net metering, which credits utility customers for the excess power they put on the grid. 

On Tuesday, The Public Service Commission heard public comments and expert witness testimony from utilities on the value of net-metering during a hearing held remotely at the regulator’s headquarters in Frankfort.

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