Complaints on BG electric fail to spark council action
Written by DAVID DUPONT, Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 09:08
Saying he had so far failed to make his point about the cost Bowling Green is paying because of a long-term energy contract, resident Neocles Leontis came prepared to show how deep the bite will be for ratepayers.
Leontis, of the group Citizens for a Livable Future, said a study by The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis show that the contract with the American Municipal Power will cost city ratepayers $118 million more than market rates from 2012 to 2021.
Leontis wants the city to revisit that contract which was signed in 2007.
Under terms of that contract the city will receive half of its electricity from a coal-fired Prairie State power plant in southern Illinois. The project has proved far more expensive than anticipated.
The study claimed the deal will cost the average residential customer an extra $1,870 over that period with small business paying $7,800 more.
Bowling Green State University, the city's biggest electric customer, would pay $17.6 million more. Accenture, a consulting firm that studied possible cost savings for the university, asserted that the university is paying too much for electricity.
The second largest consumer of electricity, Southeastern Container, would pay $15 million more.
And Leontis said that he felt that since the analysis didn't take into account increased federal regulation of coal plants and other factors, those costs are "very low-ball ... I think the actual numbers will be higher."
While he came with numbers, he left without getting any commitment from any member of council to do anything about the contract.
Council President Michael Aspacher said that the city's Board of Public Utilities, which Leontis has addressed, is the proper venue for his concerns.
Leontis said he wanted to bring it to council as the elective representatives, and in hopes that they could ask AMP to provide the numbers he feels are being withheld.
Aspacher said he felt the response Leontis received from the utilities board "would be sufficient."
Councilman Bob McOmber said that the issue was complicated. "The fact remains that city is involved in a long-term contract. ... My desire is to see Prairie State operate better."
If the plant does increase its efficiency, the contract will be in the best interest of the city. Later, he added, that if coal remains a part of the country's energy future for the next 50 years, the contract will pay off for the city, conceding that if coal fades away as an energy source, the contract will have been too costly.
Councilwoman Sandy Rowland said that the institute doing the analysis was a noted critic of coal power.
Bowling Green was moving toward more green energy including investments in hydropower and wind power. While she doesn't like coal, "we have to continue to use it until we come up with alternatives."
And Councilman Bruce Jeffers noted that the Prairie State plant is a state of the art plant. If the city abrogated the contract, and it had to replace that electricity, "we would be buying it from dirtier coal plants."
Councilman Daniel Gordon said the issue needed to be discussed and looked forward to further discussion.
Councilman John Zanfardino said he was on council when the deal was approved. "It was not an easy decision then, it's not an easy reality now."
The Prairie State plant has operated below what was expected, he said. "The fact remains we have a contract."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 July 2014 09:23