Today, the Northern Kentucky Tribune published an opinion editorial by Dependable Power First Kentucky Executive Director Katelyn Bunning explaining the importance of Kentucky Senate Bill 349 to keeping the lights on and holding down electricity costs.

The full text is available below and here:

Senate Bill 349 is good for Kentucky’s energy future

Energy experts have been issuing dire warnings that the shift away from traditional electricity sources is happening too fast largely because of government policies. If this trend continues, many regions of the country face the risk of electricity shortages, especially over the next five years.

These worried experts include the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, electric grid operators that are responsible for coordinating the flow of electricity in most of the country, and members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). One member of FERC, who also happens to be a former state utility commissioner, has warned that we are facing an “electricity crisis” unless things change.

Kentucky’s system for delivering electricity is complex, and the majority of Kentuckians take for granted that they will have continued access to an affordable and reliable supply of electricity. However, the way we generate electricity has continued to shift away from our most reliable sources of energy, and that shift has largely continued without meaningful thought given to what that does to the reliability of the electric grid. This means that the risk of future electricity shortages in our state and region is increasing.

It also means that warnings from experts demonstrate the need to put reliability at the forefront of any decisions made regarding Kentucky’s energy future and its economy. Senate Bill 349, which passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support, will soon be voted on by the Kentucky House of Representatives. This bill is important because it will help the state’s utilities and the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) make better decisions on behalf of ratepayers.

SB 349 would establish a new energy planning commission whose members would be made up of a diverse group of stakeholders and experts appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. For example, one of the members of the new commission is the director of the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research. Other members represent different sources of electricity, including wind and solar power, as well as consumer advocates and electricity users.

The new commission is tasked with developing information, analysis, and recommendations about such issues as the adequacy of Kentucky’s electricity supply, future electricity demand, new and emerging technologies, and the consequences of retiring existing sources of electricity without adequately replacing that generation.

Providing information about the retirement of existing power plants seems to have drawn the most objections from the bill’s critics. Note that the bill requires, among other things, that a utility explain the impact that retiring an existing power plant will have on the availability of reliable power in the state to both meet future demand growth and to respond to extreme weather events like 2022’s Winter Storm Elliott that led to blackouts across the state. Moreover, the PSC still has the ultimate authority to approve or deny a proposal to retire a power plant and to set electricity rates.

This all seems perfectly reasonable, but critics argue that the bill creates “hurdles” or “obstacles” that favor coal interests. It’s hard to see how more information that leads to better decision making, including whether or not to retire power plants, is somehow a bad idea. These decisions regarding our electricity supply impact all of us, and they warrant serious analysis and review.

Given the barrage of warnings coming from grid operators, we are grateful that we have elected officials who are giving this issue the sober attention it deserves. Making sound decisions that keep the lights on and hold down electricity costs is really just common sense. And that’s what SB 349 is really about.

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