Slowly and Grudgingly, Change Is Coming to Coal Country

Daniel Farber

May 30, 2017

A sign of the times: Fox News has reported, without comment, that the Kentucky Coal Museum is installing solar panels to save money. This is part of a larger trend.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported on shifts in power production in states like West Virginia and Kentucky. For instance, Appalachian Power has “closed three coal-fired plants and converted two others to gas, reducing its dependence on coal to 61 percent last year, down from 74 percent in 2012.” In response to an inquiry from the Governor, the company said it has no plans to build another coal plant. In Kentucky, the Public Utility Commission has advised companies about offering renewable energy packages in order to attract large corporations, many of whom have strong green energy programs.

Similarly, in Wyoming, Microsoft made a deal to get wind power for its new data center. In fact, according to the Energy Information Agency, Wyoming gets nearly 10% of its power from wind, making it 15th in the nation.

Corporate pressure has made a difference beyond these states, according to the Times:

Last year, utilities made deals with corporate customers through rate arrangements known as green tariffs for 220 megawatts of power, enough to run about 40,000 average American homes. Thus far this year, there have been 360 megawatts worth of agreements, with an additional 465 megawatts under negotiation.

It seems that efforts at corporate sustainability, which I’ve posted about previously, are actually having some tangible impacts.

The coal-producing states are still heavily dependent on coal for power. And the political pressure to stick with coal is strong. Nonetheless, coal is stronger losing ground, even in the places where it is most prized.

Cross-posted from LegalPlanet.

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