Dayton Power and Light Should Keep the Lights on by Saving Coal Plants

Published April 26, 2017

Dayton Power and Light (DPL) has announced it proposes to close two coal-fired power plants and invest in additional wind and solar power generation. The proposal is subject to the approval of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and was prompted by a lawsuit made by the Sierra Club, which has used sue-and-settle tactics to force the premature closure of coal plants nationwide.

Despite cries to the contrary made by left-wing environmentalists, closing the DPL power plants will increase costs for ratepayers and have negative consequences for Ohio’s manufacturing sector.

Coal is the single most important source of electricity in Ohio. In 2015, coal provided 59% of the electricity generated in state. Other more-traditional energy sources also played an important part. Natural gas contributed 23%, and nuclear energy provided 14%.

Renewable-energy sources — which include wind, solar and hydroelectric — have been largely unimportant. They have provided a mere 2% of the state’s electricity, and they’ve done so at higher rates than conventional fuels.

According to a study by the Brookings Institution, generating electricity with wind power costs twice as much as conventional power plants, and solar costs three to six times as much. As such, adding more renewables at the expense of coal and natural gas will increase prices for ratepayers.

The power plants themselves are an important source of jobs for hundreds of families. The Stuart station employs approximately 380 employees and the Killen station has about 110, according to DPL. Manchester, Ohio, the town where these power plants are located, has a population of approximately 1,984, meaning approximately 24.7% of the population could be out of work if these plants close.

However, the adverse economic consequences of closing these power plants prematurely reaches far beyond the jobs lost at the power plants.

Closing the Stuart and Killen stations will also have dire consequences for energy-intensive industries. For instance, manufacturing — the backbone of the Ohio economy, accounting for 17% of the state’s gross domestic product in 2014 — is very energy intensive. Shuttering coal-fired power plants in favor of more-expensive wind and solar projects will make manufacturing in Ohio more expensive, which would put family-supporting blue-collar jobs at risk and cause prices to rise for consumers.

According to DPL’s own statement, the adverse effects of closing these plants would also include $26.5 billion in economic losses and the elimination of nearly 19,000 jobs. This incredible figure does not include the potential loss of coal-mining jobs, a central part of President Trump’s agenda. Nor does it include the significant risks posed to the state’s power reliability.

Wind and solar can only produce energy when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, which means they are not reliable energy sources and require significant backups to function properly. Wind turbines produce energy only 25% of the time. Solar plants are even less efficient, generating electricity 15% of the time.

Because of these reliability issues, coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants must be ready to generate electricity when renewables are sleeping on the job. However, this duplication of electricity generation capacity is expensive and drives up costs for consumers.

The situation is comparable to being forced to purchase two cars when you only need one — and one of the two cars is wildly expensive and only works some of the time while the other is affordable and runs whenever you need it.

For these reasons, investment in renewable energy is wasteful and only “profitable” because wind and solar are the most subsidized forms of energy in the country.

Why is it that this move is being touted by some as the closing of costly, uncompetitive coal plants?

The simple answer is because there are many who want to impose renewable energy on the world regardless of whether it makes any financial sense. They often cite arguments relying on incredibly flawed cost-benefit analyses that do not take into account the fact Trump has rolled back expensive regulations on the coal industry, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule, and has stated his support for scrapping the Clean Power Plan — a costly and central part of President Obama’s climate-change-inspired regulatory scheme.

DPL should reconsider its plans to shutter these coal plants, because closing these reliable, affordable sources of energy is clearly not in the public interest. PUCO should consider the damage closing these plants will deal to Ohio and rule accordingly.

[Originally Published at Investor’s Business Daily]