Officials from AEP-Southwestern Electric Power Co. were in Longview on Thursday to seek support for wind and solar energy and for reducing dependence on coal.
The Shreveport-based utility has proposed a plan over the next 20 years to increase its use of wind energy from 9% to 26%, solar energy from 0% to 10% and natural gas from 7% to 19% while reducing reliance on coal from 83% to 44%.
The proposed wind energy project with SWEPCO’s sister company in Oklahoma would add 810 megawatts of wind energy, enough to serve 200,000 homes and save customers $2 billion over the 30-year lifespan of wind energy sites, according information from SWEPCO.
Carey Sullivan, corporate communications director for SWEPCO, spoke at Pinecrest Country Club at a luncheon for about 30 people, including officials from area cities.
She told the officials about the benefits of a project that calls for building three wind energy sites in Oklahoma: Sundance, Maverick and Traverse.
Sullivan and Mark Robinson, external affairs director for SWEPCO in Longview, also fielded questions during the luncheon.
“We have long-range plans” for clean energy,” Sullivan said. “We are trying to change our energy mix.”
Sullivan said SWEPCO currently relies on 469 megawatts from wind energy.
She said the Oklahoma project requires support from public utility commissions in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
She said the next step in Texas is a public hearing before an administrative law judge, who will forward a recommendation to the Public Utility Commission for a ruling in July.
Responding to a question, Sullivan said, “I see no downside” to the project.
Responding to comments about subsidies intended to stimulate wind energy development to make it more competitive with fossil fuels, Robinson said area residents are paying taxes that benefit subsidized rates elsewhere.
Robinson said coal will be going away as an energy source in the next 30 years, but said SWEPCO is not planning to shut down power plants because of wind power.
He said SWEPCO operates three coal-fired power plants in Texas: Henry W. Pirkey in Hallsville, J. Robert Welsh in Titus County and Frank M. Wilkes in Avinger. The company also operates the Knox Lee Gas Power Plant in South Longview.
City managers Greg Hutson of Gilmer and Josh Selleck of Kilgore afterward said they thought SWEPCO answered some of their concerns over whether the use of wind energy would increase costs to ratepayers.
“I’ve always heard wind energy is so much more expensive, but my concerns were allayed,” Hutson said. “I think the jury is still out.”
Selleck said Kilgore is part of the Cities Advocating Reasonable Deregulation coalition.
“The goal (from CARD) is to get many guarantees from this project so our ratepayers are protected,” he said.
SWEPCO serves a total of 536,300 customers in the tri-state area, including 185,000 in Texas, according to its website.
For information on the projects, go to swepco.com/cleanenergy .