Our plans and achievements can always be measured against our past performance and our potential. Take Olympic figure skating: the judges might remark, “That’s the best she’s ever skated!” or “He would have to beat his personal best by twelve points to medal.”
But what about assessing how an electrical utility performs? If utilities were athletes, we might see ourselves as their fans, their sponsors paying our monthly bills, and even as their coaches, pushing for specific areas of improvement like investing in efficiency and renewable sources.
Appalachian Power Company, for example, currently generates more than 80 percent of its power from coal. The company has built no large scale renewable energy to date, and does not offer any efficiency program for customers to reduce their energy consumption. To earn a spot on the medal podium for clean energy, the company needs to make serious changes to its long-term plans. Like an old athlete learning new tricks, the Old Dominion has an opportunity to score big points with our abundant renewable energy sources.
The challenge for utilities in Virginia is not simply to plan to power their territory for the next fifteen or more years by whatever means is cheapest on paper today. But, like a skier on her way down a mountain, utilities need to prepare for the sharp turns and rough terrain ahead.
In our energy system this translates to federal regulations that will impact the cost of operating fossil-fuel-burning power plants and will make investing in renewables and energy efficiency even smarter choices for meeting future demand. And regardless of federal-level action, spikes in coal and natural gas prices mean that utilities should hedge against those energy sources by branching out into renewables and efficiency programs in order to protect customers from increases on their bills.
Utility customers can stand up and say we won’t applaud a business-as-usual, go-through-the-motions approach. We can cheer Appalachian Power on to live up to our hopes for energy that’s healthier for our communities and reliable and affordable for customers.
Urge Appalachian Power Company to invest in renewables and efficiency. Send your message now in less than the time is takes a two-man bobsled team to win the race for gold (56.25 seconds).