Coal, Generation, Renewable Energy

AEP vows to add 8,300 MW in renewable energy by 2030

American Electric Power is not calling it that, but the utility company has detailed its own version of the now dead federal Clean Power Plan and vowed Tuesday to live up to ambitious carbon reduction goals over the next three decades.

The Columbus, Ohio-based AEP delivered a new report outlining the utility company’s goals for the clean energy future. Those include a strategy which would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its power plants to 60 percent below year 2000 levels by 2030 and 80 percent from 2000 by 2050.

Previous reports indicated AEP already has cut its emission profile 44 percent in the past 18 years. The demise of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, scrapped by the Trump Administration in the past year, apparently is not killing any AEP plans for future renewable energy, efficiency and grid-edge investments.

“AEP is focused on modernizing the power grid, expanding renewable energy resources and delivering cost-effective, reliable energy to our customers,” Nic Akins, AEP CEO, said in a statement released Tuesday. “Our customers want us to partner with them to provide cleaner energy and new technologies, while continuing to provide reliable, affordable energy. Our investors want us to protect their investment in our company, deliver attractive returns and manage climate-related risk. This long-term strategy allows us to do both.”

The utility firm plans to add 3,065 MW of solar generation and 5,295 MW of wind to its portfolio for regulated customers by 2030. Those include the $4.5 billion, 2,000-MW Wind Catcher Energy Connection in Oklahoma, planned to deliver about 9 million MWh of wind power to AEP customers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

Wind Catcher is still awaiting regulatory approvals. AEP developed the line route last year and hopes to make it operational by 2020.

Akins previously has called Wind Catcher a “no-brainer” and will save customers about $7 billion in energy costs over 25 years of operation. The projected 765-kV line would start at the wind farm connection in the Oklahoma panhandle and end at a substation near Tulsa.

AEP’s coal-fired portion of its generation mix has shifted from 70 percent coal-fired 13 years ago to 47 percent this year, while natural gas capacity has increased from 19 percent to 27 percent since 2005. The company’s renewable generation has more than tripled to 13 percent of the portfolio, according to reports.

 “This transition to a more balanced resource portfolio will help mitigate risk for our customers and shareholders alike and ensure a more resilient and reliable energy system into the future,” Akins said.

The AEP CEO previously has called the future of coal power “very limited” due to economics of the fuel source. The company has retired coal-fired plants in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Ohio in recent years.

Between 2018 and 2020, the company plans to invest approximately $1.2 billion in contracted renewables and renewables integrated with energy storage. AEP’s strategy also includes plans to invest nearly $13 billion over the next three years in its transmission and distribution system.

AEP is not alone in upping its renewable energy profile despite the Trump-era rejection of the Clean Power Plan goals. Utilities in California, Arizona, New York and Massachusetts are a few of states which have announced far-reaching clean energy goals for the future.

(Editor’s Note: Photo credit GE Renewables on Wind Catcher official website)