Plan to Switch Cardinal Plant in Brilliant to Natural Gas is Approved

Photo by Casey Junkins American Electric Power plans to convert its Cardinal Plant in Brilliant to run on natural gas by 2030.

BRILLIANT — Ohio regulators approved a plan calling for American Electric Power to transition the Cardinal Plant in Brilliant to burn natural gas rather than coal by 2030.

Although officials with Columbus, Ohio-based AEP said they are uncertain how this will impact customer rates, information from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio said the change should not raise bills by more than 5 percent — at least not for the first two years of the agreement reached last week. The deal also calls for AEP to develop at least 900 megawatts of wind and solar energy projects in Ohio over the next four years — enough to power about 900,000 homes.

AEP spokeswoman Tammy Ridout said the PUCO decision officially affirms an agreement the parties made in late 2015.

AEP only owns one of the Cardinal Plant units, as Buckeye Power owns the remaining two. Buckeye Power officials said the firm has no immediate plans to change its generation fuel at Cardinal.

“As part of that agreement, AEP will retire or refuel to natural gas Conesville Plant units 5 and 6 and Cardinal Plant Unit 1 by the end of 2029 and 2030, respectively,” Ridout said.

The Conesville facility is in Muskingum County, north of Zanesville. According to the San Francisco-based Sierra Club, these coal fired plants emitted approximately 8,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 11,000 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution annually in recent years.

The Obama administration’s carbon dioxide-targeting Clean Power Plan, as well as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, aim to reduce pollution such as this. Officials with the Sierra Club hailed the move as a means to comply with more stringent Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“We’re pleased to see that AEP will be moving forward, in partnership with private industry, to develop a significant amount of clean energy for Ohio,” said Dan Sawmiller, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “This stipulation was difficult to put together, and we’re happy to see that PUCO is showing its support for a clean-energy plan that moves Ohio forward.”

The club and AEP state they want to make Appalachian Ohio a “solar manufacturing hub,” with the potential to employ hundreds of Ohioans in the solar industry.

“There has been considerable uncertainty in terms of energy in Ohio for the past several years. PUCO’s approval today shows they are willing to support innovation and investment in Ohio’s clean energy future and creates a steady path for future economic development and planning,” Sawmiller added.