BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– Appalachian Power residential customers have watched their bills rise by more than six percent since September 2021, when West Virginia Public Service Commission approved a rate increase.

With families paying higher bills to stay warm, West Virginia Coal Association Vice-President Jason Bostic told Beckley Rotary Club on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, that a worldwide coal shortage has an impact on heating costs.

“We kind of find ourselves in the middle of a perfect storm, to our disadvantage,” Bostic said. “We’ve got worldwide, record demand for coal at very, very high prices.”

When approving the increase in September 2021, West Virginia Public Service Commission ruled the company cannot raise rates until June 2024, but the company didn’t have enough coal to run its Mitchell, Mountaineer, and John Amos plants in West Virginia in late 2021 and was forced to idle the three plants.

Because of that, Appalachian Power asked the State Public Service Commission earlier this month to let it recover $297 million from customers. The Public Service Commission has already approved the power company’s request to recover about $125 million in energy costs in 2022.
Bostic explained to Rotarians that PJM, a regional market operator, controls the energy grid in 13 states, including West Virginia.

“If an individual utility can’t produce enough power for its own customers, then APCO in this case has to go to the PJM market and buy that power from wholesale producers,” Bostic said. “So (Appalachian Power) can make the power for about 22 bucks per (measuring unit), or it can buy it from the open market for about $80.”

If the state approves the company’s request for a rate hike, the cost would be passed on to customers, raising the average ratepayer’s bill by around $18 each month.

“It’s really important for us as Rotarians to understand the push and the pull that’s happening in our economies and where West Virginia stands,” Beckley Rotary Club President April Elkins Badtke noted.

Appalachian Power and American Consolidated Natural Resources are in a legal battle over the coal supply issue.