A new study commissioned by environmental groups says East Kentucky Power Cooperative is concentrating too heavily on building new coal-fired generating plants, a practice that could mean higher customer bills for decades as new pollution laws take effect.
The study by Synapse Energy Economics says the utility, which provides power for half a million homes and businesses throughout Kentucky, also faces uncertainty over financing and future energy sales.
"Such an investment locks customers into paying for a course of action that could prove, and is indeed likely to prove, an ill-chosen option as greater certainty emerges over the next several years," said the study, which was released Wednesday by the Sierra Club, the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. It was based on planning documents the utility filed with the Kentucky Public Service Commission.
East Kentucky Power spokesman Nick Comer said the utility is trying to offer the most reliable and affordable energy to the customers it supplies through 16 rural electric cooperatives.
"While this report is critical of coal-fueled power plants, it offers no information about the affordability and reliability of alternatives," he said.
In April, the utility opened a new coal-fired unit at its Spurlock plant near Maysville. It is planning a new unit at its Smith plant in Clark County that could come on line in 2014.
Comer said the utility is always looking at conservation and alternative sources of energy. The Synapse study said the company's conservation efforts will amount to only a 3.1 percent reduction in electricity usage by 2018.