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Beam: Transition to renewables will take decades

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For more than a century, Appalachian Power has provided safe, reliable and affordable electricity for its customers.

Throughout this time, coal has primarily generated the electricity powering our homes, businesses and lives.

Decades later, we are transforming our energy generation portfolio by incorporating increasing amounts of clean energy.

Along with our parent company AEP, we plan to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, with an interim goal to cut emissions 80 percent from 2000 levels by 2030.

Meeting our company’s objectives, and the directives established by the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), requires a measured approach.

While incorporating more renewable energy in our generating mix, we are ever mindful of our obligation to provide reliable service that keeps rates manageable for our customers.

Taysha Devaughn’s column in The Roanoke Times paints an unrealistic picture of the transition to 100 percent clean energy.

The transition away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of power will occur gradually and responsibly, as the Virginia legislature outlined in the VCEA.

The law enacted last year requires us to file an annual plan with the State Corporation Commission (SCC) outlining how our company will meet key targets on our way to becoming 100 percent carbon-free by 2050.

The transition to 100 percent clean energy will not happen overnight nor could it. As a practical matter, considering the time it takes to design and construct these resources, their current costs, and prevailing market prices for energy, the transition will take decades to complete.

We plan to meet our annual VCEA targets primarily through future investments in solar, wind, energy storage and energy efficiency measures.

Our short-term plans are to acquire or contract 210 megawatts (MW) of solar resources in Virginia and 200 MW of wind in the next five years.

By 2050, we expect to add 3,400 MW of solar, 2,200 MW of on-shore wind, and 400 MW of energy storage to our current portfolio of wind and hydro resources.

Our energy portfolio over the next 20 years also includes coal. Our customers need power that is reliable and affordable, and the responsible way to accomplish this is to keep two of our coal burning facilities in West Virginia operational.

To keep these plants open, we must make environmental improvements at both sites that will cost Appalachian Power’s Virginia customers about $2.50 a month.

Our analysis provided to the Virginia SCC for this proposal proved that these investments are the most affordable and sustainable option for customers.

Devaughn’s column about our plan is misleading, and includes assertions based on a flawed analysis by the Sierra Club that “keeping both plants running through 2040 as APCo wants to do would cost ratepayers up to $1 billion.”

This assumption, as well as her other assertion that “Coal is too expensive and too dirty compared to clean energy alternatives” are patently false and misleading.

Also misleading is Devaughn’s statement that “This rate increase would come on top of some of the highest electricity bills in the nation.” The truth is the rates paid by Appalachian Power’s Virginia customers are among the lowest in the nation.

With limited access to natural gas, most Appalachian Power customers heat and cool their homes with electricity, resulting in higher electric bills than those in areas where customers use both natural gas and electricity, and receive bills for both. However, overall costs for energy remain low compared to other states.

The transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 is measured in order to protect all of our customers. We are committed to making the energy we provide as clean as possible, as fast as we can, without compromising reliability, affordability, or the security of the electric power system.

We also are committed to addressing the physical risks to infrastructure and people from a changing climate and the socio-economic effects that coal-fueled power plant closures have on the workforce as well as local and regional economies.

The reality is our company is only as successful as the communities we serve, and our plan is the right one to ensure that our Southwest Virginia counties are successful throughout our transition to clean energy.

Beam is Appalachian Power’s president and chief operating officer.

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