Last month (September 24-28) we partnered with a leading public opinion research firm to find out exactly what Kentucky voters think about energy policy and the state of our electric grid. The results show broad support, regardless of political party, for policies that promote electric affordability and grid reliability.
When it comes to the future of power in Kentucky one thing is clear – reliable, dependable power is a priority for voters, and policymakers need to do more to ensure continued access to affordable and reliable energy in the state. A combined 93% of Kentucky voters agree, and 55% STRONGLY agree, that regulators and elected officials should be doing more to ensure Kentucky has affordable and reliable electricity (see chart).
After reliability, affordability was the second greatest concern among survey respondents. Of those polled, a combined 83% agree, and 49% strongly agree, that power bills are already expensive, and further rate increases would make them unaffordable. Only 4% indicated that they were entirely unconcerned with current energy prices by responding “strongly disagree.” Together, 72% of voters believe state officials should either focus on keeping energy prices low or making sure people have access to reliable energy, rather than prioritizing a transition to cleaner forms of energy. This majority holds for all types of voters. Only 19% of Republicans and 36% of Democrats believe state officials should be prioritizing a transition to cleaner forms of energy over keeping prices low and ensuring access to reliable energy (see chart).
Behind this widespread concern for electric reliability and affordability is an understanding that conventional, fuel secure energy sources, including coal, remain an essential part of our energy mix. 85% of Kentucky voters agree that we should be cautious in our transition away from conventional energy sources to ensure that Kentucky families continue to have access to reliable power (see chart), and 64% agree that Kentucky is moving away from fuel secure resources like coal too quickly for the electric grid to handle it.
These findings underscore the fact that electric reliability and affordability are urgent issues regardless of political affiliation and deserve bipartisan action. The recent answers from both Governor Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron during the WPSD Local 6 televised debate, when asked how they would ensure reliable and affordable electricity in Kentucky, further highlight the importance for candidates from both major political parties to address this issue that is front of mind for many voters.
With reference to the specific importance of coal, Governor Andy Beshear said, “Coal built this country. It built the strongest middle class the world has ever seen powering us through the Industrial Revolution, and two world wars….I’m proud to be endorsed by not only coal operators, but the United Mine Workers who believe that I am the governor that can continue to support our traditional industries while bringing in jobs of the future. We have to have an all of the above energy policy.”
Attorney General Daniel Cameron followed, saying, “Governor Beshear and I agree on an all of the above energy strategy….Right now, in front of the Public Service Commission, I am advocating that we oppose the closure of three coal fired plants, because I know how important and how devastating it would be if those three plants were to close to this region. So again, it is important that we be thoughtful about our energy portfolio here.”
It is incumbent on state officials and federal regulators to advocate and advance responsible, common-sense energy policies consistent with these findings. If you ask Kentuckians, that involves making sure that we aren’t transitioning too quickly from coal and other conventional energy sources that provide essential, baseload power.