More details on the new, really-really-expensive AEP coal plant in West Virginia.

It seems like just yesterday that I wrote that the 17 percent rate increase announced by AEP would not be the last one, given the cost of this plant. Two days later, here they come.

Specifically, “Customers could start paying as early as next year with rate hikes starting at $1 per month in 2009 and eventually climbing to $7.70 per month. AEP customers could pay nearly $160 million during construction and $116.23 million per year after that to fund the new plant.

And why do we need those rates? Because this plant will be “the single most expensive utility project in the state’s history.”

And why do we need the coal plant? Because … [drum roll] … coal is cheap!

Full story from Greenwire ($ub. req’d) below the fold.

State officials in West Virginia signed off on plans for a $2.2 billion coal-fired plant late last week, angering environmentalists and consumer advocates who say the plant should incorporate carbon-capture technology.

The American Electric Power plant, the single most expensive utility project in the state’s history, was approved by the Public Service Commission. In an 85-page decision, the PSC gave AEP a stream of cash — through customer rate hikes — to pay off debt incurred from building the plant.

Customers could start paying as early as next year with rate hikes starting at $1 per month in 2009 and eventually climbing to $7.70 per month. AEP customers could pay nearly $160 million during construction and $116.23 million per year after that to fund the new plant.

The PSC rejected calls that would force AEP subsidiary Appalachian Power Co. to add plant equipment to capture carbon dioxide emissions and “sequester” them underground.

“Uncertainties regarding CO2 legislation and regulation make it more reasonable to wait until such requirements are certain,” the PSC said. “By the time CO2 regulation is effective, the advances may change the specific design of the preferred CO2 capture retrofit.”

The PSC also made its support for increasing coal-generated power clear.

“While coal has recently become the whipping boy for environmental ills (and there are clearly some problems in that regard), the fact is that coal reserves are estimated at 250 years, and rail and river transportation systems in this state make coal a reliable and stable source of energy for generating capacity for the project,” the PSC ruling said (Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette, March 9).