Keeping Kentucky's Promise

Kelly Craft: We’re moving away from coal too fast, hurting Ky’s security, low costs.

Since the energy crisis of the 1970s, coal has provided Kentuckians with reliable, affordable power. But today, President Biden and his EPA regulations threaten to prematurely close coal plants serving Kentucky, jeopardizing our energy security and low-cost advantage to compete for jobs in the future. Sadly, Governor Beshear has sided with Biden instead of with hardworking Kentuckians.

For generations Kentucky’s electricity rates were some of the nation’s lowest. As recently as 2013, our electric rates were lower than 46 states, with coal fueling 93% of our electricity. However, for the last decade, Kentucky has led the country in coal power plant closures and energy bills for Kentuckians have risen in the process. Our average electric rates went from the 4th best in the nation in 2013 to 18th best last year.

As coal power shut down, it has been replaced by natural gas and, while I support an “all of the above” energy policy, natural gas has limitations. Natural gas price volatility drove Kentuckians’ cost of electricity to all-time highs last year.

In addition to higher fuel costs, rate payers have been saddled with stranded costs of closing still-viable coal plants and the construction costs of their natural gas replacements. Eastern Kentucky is all too aware of this. Since the Big Sandy power plant closed in 2015, electricity costs have gone up 50% in the region it served.

I recognize energy transition is necessary; it is time for others to recognize it must be done responsibly. PJM is the nation’s largest grid operator and serves 65 million Americans in 13 states, including Kentucky. One of its responsibilities is to ensure an efficient and reliable energy transition. Yet, recently, PJM issued a warning that energy transition is moving too fast and that a continuation of early retirements of coal power plants will likely cause an electric power shortfall by 2030.

This past December, Winter Storm Elliott illustrated just what not having coal plants will look like for Kentuckians. The crushing cold, which swept the Commonwealth on the day before Christmas Eve, resulted in the highest single-day electricity demand on record. Rolling black outs were instituted as the energy demanded exceeded the energy supplied.

For its part, natural gas could not keep up with that demand. Natural gas plants rely on pipelines that deliver gas just in time. But the pipelines serving Kentucky failed to deliver, right when they were needed most. If not for coal’s dynamic and robust ability to keep the lights on, those rolling blackouts during Winter Storm Elliott would have lasted not minutes or hours, but days or weeks.

We must keep the coal plants running!

It’s despicable that when Andy Beshear and Daniel Cameron had the chance in 2021 to prevent the early closure of the Mitchell power plant that serves Eastern Kentucky, both men failed to do so. The utility advised them that operating the Mitchell plant through 2040 was the least-cost option and it was needed to maintain capacity obligations to the power grid. Beshear and Cameron ignored the utility’s advice.

Kentucky will face decisions like this again. Our current governor and attorney general already have shown us their decision-making bias. Their decision will cost us Kentucky jobs. It will cost us access to dependable electricity. But, most of all, it will cost Kentuckians too much as their electric bills will keep going higher.

As Governor, I will defend Kentuckians from these costs by defending coal. And I will not allow the premature closure of coal plants because I know that so long as Kentucky burns coal, Kentucky’s promise can shine bright.