Conservation more lucrative as coal power fades
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pennsylvania universities, industries and governments stand to reap bigger financial rewards for conserving electricity as coal-fired power plants close in next few years.
A regional power-management group is increasing payments to major power users that voluntarily curtail demand on the hottest days, with maximum payouts expected to reach 33 percent by 2017, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Sunday.
“It really is just supply and demand,” said Stu Bresler, a vice president with Valley Forge-based PJM Interconnection, which distributes electricity to all or parts of 13 states including Pennsylvania. “If customers are able to shift their demand, there would be less need for additional capacity for generation or transmission.”
Tougher federal environmental laws are resulting in closures of coal-fired plants that are expected to reduce PJM’s generating capacity by 10 percent by 2017.
They include two FirstEnergy Corp. plants in southwestern Pennsylvania that are slated to close this week.
PJM expects to close about one-third of the gap through aggressive conservation among major electricity users.
Power from other regions and natural gas-fired plants also will help offset the loss, Bresler said.
As part of its “demand response” program, PJM hopes the larger payments will prompt more institutional users to agree to cut usage for several hours when it issues alerts during high-use periods.
Participating organizations typically trim consumption by such measures as cutting back on air conditioning and turning off unnecessary lights and appliances.
Allegheny County expects to save about $145,000 through the program in 2014-15, up from a projected $32,000 this year, officials said.
Westmoreland County anticipates as much as $30,000 for each day its agencies curtail use, a spokesman said.
Also participating are Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.
CMU spokeswoman Abby Simmons said the school “makes a little money from this.” She said CMU participates “just as much to do our part to keep the grid from going down.”