Appalachian Power wants to convert coal power plant to run on natural gas

Appalachian Power requested approval from state regulators to convert a portion of the existing Clinch River Plant in Russell County, Va., to operate with natural gas. Changing two of the three generating units from coal-fired to natural gas-fired is the least-cost alternative to meeting customers’ power needs, positively supports the economy and reduces emissions.

“For more than 50 years three generating units at the Clinch River Plant have served Appalachian’s customers well,” said Charles Patton, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “However, they are not equipped to meet recently approved and anticipated environmental requirements and must shut down. Converting two of the Clinch units to natural gas and retiring the third is the best alternative to meet energy needs, taking into account economic and environmental considerations and diversifying the company’s power plant fleet.”

In the West Virginia filing, Appalachian asks the Public Service Commission to allow the company to proceed with the conversion and provide a mechanism for recovery of the $65 million associated with the project in a future proceeding. If approved, the conversion would cost a residential customer using about 1,000 kWh a month less than 50 cents a month once the units are operational.

Appalachian seeks approval of the request by February to enable the company to meet construction deadlines in 2015 and 2016. The company also today requested approval for the conversion from the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The natural gas units are expected to be operational in 2016. When complete, the two units will have the capacity to generate 484 MW of electricity. Currently, the three existing units can generate 705 MW.

Appalachian Power has about 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee (as AEP Appalachian Power). It is a unit of American Electric Power, which delivers electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states. AEP owns nearly 38,000 MW of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP also owns a nearly 39,000-mile transmission network.

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