Environmentalists have said for years that coal and other fossil fuels are not sustainable sources of energy. Now advocates of green energy are arguing that coal has also become economically unsustainable. Coal has reportedly become a bad investment, even in countries with large coal reserves.
FirstEnergy Corp. began formal proceedings yesterday with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), asking for permission to raise its rates to cover the cost of maintaining its aging coal plants. About 100 demonstrators held a rally outside the PUCO offices in Columbus, asking the commissioners to deny the request.
“This bailout request is irresponsible,” said Jessica Smith-Szabo of Ohio Citizen Action. “If these plants are so outdated that they can no longer compete economically, then it’s up to them to reinvest their own money, not ours, to secure their profits.”
The PUCO has denied similar requests from Duke Energy and American Electric Power thanks to community input, Smith-Szabo said. “FirstEnergy’s request should be denied just like the others.”
FirstEnergy is also “asking to almost exclusively use coal from their Sammis plant and nuclear from their Davis-Besse plant for the next 15 years,” said Anne Caruso, a ratepayer from the Cleveland area. “The next 15 years are the prime years for us to transition to green, reliable energy because of the situation with global warming.
“The situation is dire,” Caruso said. “FirstEnergy asking to use coal for the next 15 years is unconscionable.”
“FirstEnergy is the largest monopoly utility in the country,” said Sierra Club Ohio chapter director Jen Miller. “It’s still trying to run the same business model that they perfected in the 1950’s: burn dirty fuels, sell lots of electricity, and maximize shareholder profits at the expense of its customers, the environment, and public health. As utility customers, we don’t want to pay more for dirty energy.”
After the rally, the protesters delivered hundreds of hand-written letters to Governor John Kasich and the PUCO. This was in addition to more than 7,000 letters already sent by Ohio Citizen Action members.
Last year Governor Kasich signed legislation that froze Ohio’s green energy standards for two years. “That’s what’s so ironic,” Miller said. “FirstEnergy is asking the PUCO to force customers to prop up the coal and nuclear plants. What happened to their free market theories over at the Statehouse, when they were saying that efficiency and renewables should be able to stand on the open market? And now they stand here, asking for a bailout.
“We ask the PUCO and the governor to make Ohio a leader in clean energy,” Miller said. “We ask for energy efficiency, wind and solar, and combined heat and power to become a priority once again in our state.”
The International Energy Agency predicts that if pledges made in UN climate negotiations are met, renewable energy sources will replace coal as the world’s top energy source by 2030.