Senator urges PUCT support for Pirkey plant

by Kelso King, Grid Monitor | Source: Grid Monitor | Posted 02/21/2023

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Senator Bryan Hughes addressed the Commission at their February 16 meeting concerning AEP/SWEPCO's Pirkey coal power plant, which the utility has proposed to retire. The senator noted a January 9, 2023 letter from six members of the Texas Senate and seven members of the Texas House of Representatives concerning Southwestern Electric Power Company’s (SWEPCO’s) Pirkey power plant (Docket No. 53625).

Sen. Hughes stated that this plant has over 20 years of life left, a clean, reliable power plant, “a cash cow for the company” and, most importantly, a reliable source of dispatchable power. He noted it has been discussed by the Senate State Affairs Committee but was unsure they had stressed the urgency of the situation. Senator Hughes stated that SWEPCO is rushing toward retiring this plant one month from now but the Commission has not yet scrutinized the underlying assumptions the company is are relying on in making that decision.

Senator Hughes stated that SWEPCO wants to close this plant and build new wind and solar generation. He suggested that SWEPCO may make “irreversible moves” toward the closing of the plant and its accompanying mine before the Commission receives a report from the Administrative Law Judge.

While SWEPCO is “a great company,” this proposal is a radical departure from what they have seen from the company for decades. Senator Hughes suggested that in this instance the company, AEP, is “the picture of woke capitalism and ESG” to the detriment of stockholders and ratepayers. He noted that SWEPCO has the option of asking for a five-year extension from the EPA, adding that SWEPCO has stated that EPA is not the main driver of this decision. The senator urged the commissioners to look closely at this situation.

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