energy

LG&E

Louisville Gas and Electric has reached a settlement with intervenors in the company’s rate case that’s pending before state regulators.

LG&E had initially asked the Kentucky Public Service Commission to approve a rate increase that would have raised the average residential customer’s bill by about $13 a month. The settlement agreement calls for a smaller increase — about $8.24.

One of the most controversial provisions of the utility’s proposal was the way it proposed to raise those rates: not by changing the rate people pay for electricity and gas, but by changing the basic service charge. The service charge is the flat rate that all customers pay, regardless of usage.

Trump Undermines Obama's Clean Power Plan

Mar 29, 2017
Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

Coal country’s economic woes took center stage at the Environmental Protection Agency as President Donald Trump signed an executive order to undo parts of President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy.

The president was flanked by coal workers and industry figures and defenders, such as West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Ohio-based coal operator Bob Murray, filled the room during the signing ceremony.

Trump’s executive order asks the EPA to rewrite the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan — a rule that limits carbon emissions from power plants and requires states to reduce emissions by almost a third by 2030.


Erica Peterson

Kentucky regulators have approved a coal ash landfill for a power plant in Trimble County, advancing a project that’s been on hold for several years as regulators worked around concerns about the area’s geology and proximity to neighbors.

Louisville Gas & Electric has been seeking a permit for the site for more than five years. An initial permit application was denied in 2013, after a cave with ecological and possible historical significance was discovered onsite.

The Trimble County Power Station burns coal for electricity, and coal ash is a byproduct. So LG&E needs a place to put the ash, and began work on another landfill permit. Some of the ash is stored on site in ponds, but those are scheduled to be closed soon.

Creative Commons

The mayor of Glasgow is holding a news conference Friday afternoon to talk about concerns related to a local utility, according to the Daily Times.

The Glasgow Electric Plant Board’s rate structure charges customers much higher rates during one “peak” hour each month.

The EPB notifies customers through texts, phone calls, and television announcements ahead of days when the peak hour is likely to occur. Some citizens have complained that the new rate structure is unfair to those who need to run air-conditioning during the hottest days of the summer, and can’t afford the higher costs.

Mayor Dick Doty has invited the public to attend the news conference at 2 pm Friday in the City Council chambers.

In the interest of disclosure, the Glasgow EPB is an underwriter with WKU Public Radio.

Erica Peterson

A non-profit is recommending a Kentucky coal plant retire sooner than planned.

The Elmer Smith plant in Owensboro is old — it initially went into service in 1964. And over the past few years, it’s become a target for environmental groups, who point to the plant’s age and emissions, saying the upgrades it would take to comply with upcoming pollution regulations make it uneconomical to keep burning coal there.

At the request of the Sierra Club, the non-profit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis studied several documents from Owensboro Municipal Utilities, which owns and operates the Elmer Smith plant. IEEFA concluded that retiring the plant’s two units sooner rather than later would be the least-cost option for ratepayers, and urged the utility to consider replacing the capacity with renewable energy.

Among the problems IEEFA Director of Resource Planning David Schissel flagged in his analysis of Elmer Smith was that the area’s demand for electricity has remained relatively flat since 2004. So since then, the plant has been producing more power than it needs to supply its ratepayers. OMU sells the excess power on the wholesale market, but for only a fraction of its cost.

Erica Peterson

Even in what has historically been the country’s coal-fired stronghold, coal’s share of the electricity market is declining. The drop of coal-fired electricity generation in the Southeast — and a corresponding rise in natural gas and renewables — is reflecting what’s happening to the nation as a whole.

The Southern States Energy Board released its regional energy profile last week. The SSEB is an interstate compact made up of elected officials from 16 Southern states, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Kentucky is part of the compact, as are neighboring states like Missouri, West Virginia and Tennessee.

“The states that have been predominantly coal in the past are seeing some of the same pressures [as the rest of the country],” said SSEB Senior Technical Analyst Gary Garrett.

Ford Motor Company

There’s about 30 lbs. of polyurethane foam in the average vehicle. It’s in everything from headrests to seats and instrument panels. And usually, a key ingredient in that foam is petroleum.

But Ford Motor Company is experimenting with swapping out the petroleum for something that’s abundant in today’s environment: carbon dioxide.

“We conserve petroleum, we better the atmosphere and we make a very suitable material to use out of carbon dioxide,” saidDebbie Mielewski, Ford’s senior technical leader of sustainability.

Carbon dioxide is, of course, naturally in the atmosphere. But it’s also emitted from burning fossil fuels, and climate scientists have linked the earth’s quickly rising CO2 levels with climate change.

Ford’s new foam relies on a partnership with a company called Novomer that harvests waste carbon dioxide from sources like fossil fuel plants. Carbon capture technology hasn’t been proven to be economical on a large scale thus far.

Erica Peterson, WFPL

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says the commonwealth has a lot in its favor when it comes to attracting manufacturers.

But in a speech and question-and-answer session at the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers’ annual energy conference Wednesday, Bevin also spoke about the importance of planning for the future of workforce development.

Sometimes, he stressed, that includes making sure there are alternatives to four-year degrees available for high school graduates.

“As a kid who grew up poor in the country, I was blessed by opportunities that came my way to go to and graduate from college. But this idea that every kid needs to get on a fast track to some college degree, no matter what it’s in, is nonsense, it really is,” Bevin said.

“There are certain degrees that are frankly not applicable in your world, or frankly, in a lot of other worlds, either,” he said, jokingly using French Literature and Interdisciplinary Studies as examples.

Wikimedia Commons

A bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul would allow Fort Knox to continue producing natural gas to power the Army base.

Almost a year ago, Fort Knox became the first U.S. base to generate all of its own electricity. The move was spurred by the region’s 2009 ice storm; parts of Fort Knox lost power for nearly a week and highlighted the national security need for the base to become self-sufficient.

“It was pretty devastating, and Fort Knox was without power for upwards of seven days in some places,” Fort Knox Energy Manager R.J Dyrdek said in March.

The transition was helped by the discovery of natural gas reserves under the property. Now, Fort Knox is powered by a mixture of solar power, on-site natural gas and geothermal. In 2013, the post unveiled the largest solar panel array on a military installation east of the Mississippi River.

Developing natural gas resources on federal lands usually falls to the Department of the Interior. The bill introduced last week by Paul, a Republican, would make Fort Knox an exception and allow the Department of Defense to keep producing natural gas to power the site.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission was scheduled to hold a public hearing on Tuesday on Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ proposed rate increase.

Instead, as WFPL reported, the utilities and all of the intervenors in the case reached a settlement, which is now subject to PSC approval.

Here’s a deeper look at the settlement, what LG&E/KU got—and what they didn’t get.

Monthly Service Charge

This was the most contentious part of the original proposal because it would affect every customer, regardless of how much energy they used. LG&E electric and gas customers would have ended up paying $37 a month, up from $24.25. KU customers would have paid $18 a month, rather than the $10.75 they pay now. Under the settlement, there will be no change to the monthly charge, but the rates of electricity and gas will change slightly. The company estimates that the average LG&E bill will increase by about $1.15 a month, while the average KU customer will pay $9 more each month.

Creative Commons

A new whitepaper released by Kentucky regulators in draft form last week quantifies the economic effects of rising electricity prices on jobs in the state and around the country.

The paper uses a hypothetical 10 percent across-the-board increase in electricity prices around the country, and measures the effects of that increase on various states and industries. The most vulnerable states seem to be those similar to Kentucky: ones that have both a carbon-intensive energy portfolio and electricity-intensive industries.

Overall, the paper estimates a 10 percent rise in the real price of electricity would result in the loss of more than a million jobs and $142 billion in the American economy. But despite these losses, the research found that most of the nation’s industries would be relatively unaffected by the increased cost of electricity.

Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters—who also co-authored the paper—said this information will help regulators decide what policies need to be pursued to protect the economy as electricity prices increase—whether that’s due to environmental regulations or market factors.

“We want to understand the dynamics, and we want to understand at least semi-quantitatively what the implications are,” he said. “We are using these analyses to guide us in directions that we think we should be going.”

A stable of Kentucky lawmakers are learning how natural gas can be developed to meet the state’s transportation needs.   

Industry experts briefed members of the committees on energy and natural resources at the Owensboro convention center Thursday on the viability of natural gas filling stations, which are currently limited across the state.

“It’s an important issue for Kentucky," said Republican Sen. Jared Carpenter, a co-chair of both committees. "Gas has become a major player, in providing energy sources for Kentucky, and that's why we wanted to come to Owensboro."

"One of our members, this is his home community, and they've got a beautiful facility, and they just worked hand-in-hand so we could hear a presentation from the gas association and learn more about what they're doing."

Natural gas is expected to comprise a larger share of the state’s energy sources in the future.