Nation’s Largest Coal Burner is Not Digging Ohio Chamber of Commerce

AEP quits Ohio Chamber of Commerce over candidate for governor endorsementAmerican Electric Power, an Ohio based utility that describes itself as “the nation’s largest consumer of coal,” has abruptly quit the Ohio Chamber of Commerce over the Chamber’s endorsement of Republican candidate for governor John Kasich. Although AEP stated that it made the move only because the Chamber broke its 117-year tradition of neutrality in statewide races, there may be more here than meets the eye: namely, AEP is beginning to invest heavily in renewable energy in accordance with Ohio’s new climate change legislation, while Kasich is on record indicating that he would be willing to repeal the new standards.

American Electric Power and Climate Change

It’ s no secret that thousands of U.S. businesses (with the notable exception of oil companies) support renewable energy. Utility companies are an important part of that support, and they are moving rapidly into renewable energy investments. Some utilities have already pulled out of or criticized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its denialist position on climate change. On its part, AEP is clear in its support for action on climate change. It has stated that it recognizes the reality of a “carbon-constrained world,” and it participates in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in addition to its investments in conservation and renewable energy.

Coal Consumers and Renewable Energy

Stability in price and supply are key issues for large fuel consumers such as utility companies, so while at first glance it may seem out of character for electric utilities to support climate legislation, it makes sense in the context of the instability of fossil fuel markets and the unpredictability of fossil fuel supply. The increasing unwillingness of the public to support the construction of new fossil fuel-fired power plants is another motivating factor, on top of public support for climate change regulations. In addition to purchasing more renewable energy, utility companies are converting existing coal fired power plants to biomass. One Florida utility has also come up with a creative transitional approach, by connecting a solar installation to an existing natural gas power plant in order to meet peak demand with renewable energy.

Image: Coals by drpete on flickr.com.


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