Archive for January, 2012

The end of a cheap year

Thanks in part to the recent recession and some rulings by the State Corporation Commission, electric utility rates last year went down for us for the first time in several years.  Although it was only a decrease of about .7 cents per kWh, it resulted in a savings of about $84,000 last year.  Those good times are coming to an end, though, as we’re expecting utility rates to increase about 7-8% this month, and another 7-8% sometime during the summer.  Our utility is also a prodigious user of coal, and new regulations will likely increase their compliance costs (which get passed on to us!).

You can see in the graph to the right that our electricity rates have increased by nearly 75% over the last 6 years.  The only utility that will be going down next year is natural gas, which is at 10-year lows due to decreased demand and excess storage.  That will likely be a temporary dip as demand goes back up next year and beyond.

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Cleaner Coal Plants Delayed

Brandon Shores Power Plant

A few days ago, a federal appeals court issued a stay on coal power plant regulations that would have lowered emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide in 27 states.  Several utilities (including our provider, AEP) and a few other organizations sued to have the regulations delayed.  Many of the plants affected by these new rules are actually slated for retirement in the next few years, but utilities are trying to eke a few more years out of them before closing them down.

Constellation Energy, an investor-owned utility based in Maryland, is on the other side of this debate.  The company recently spent $885 million retrofitting its large Brandon Shores Plant in Maryland to comply with new state regulations, anticipating that the federal standards would soon follow.  Now that the implementation of the new standards has been delayed, Constellation Energy is arguing that they are at a disadvantage because they have complied while other utilities continue to lag behind.  They are not doing this out of benevolence, but out of a need to recoup the costs of this plant and stay competitive in the electricity market.  This is one of the few times where economic and environmental policy have aligned, but it will take the full implementation of the law to bring the rest of the utilities up to par.

See the link to a New York Times article below for more information.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/business/energy-environment/constellation-energy-coal-company-urges-stricter-pollution-rules.html?_r=1&ref=science

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Hollins ends year 400 tons lighter

Our last electric bill of the year rolled in just before we closed for the holidays.  Electrical usage was down about 4% from last year (which is about 500,000 kWh).  We’re also down 8% from 2005.  Natural gas is down about 1% from last year, and down 4% from 2005.

All of this equates to about a 400 ton reduction in carbon emissions.  That’s the equivalent of taking 70 cars off the road for an entire year, or taking 35 houses off the grid.

We hope to continue this trend in 2012 and beyond, but it’s definitely a great way to start the year!

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