State energy regulators approve renewable energy plan

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The state Public Service Commission – responsible for regulating the state’s major public-private utility companies – unanimously approved on Tuesday a new plan proposed by energy giant Alabama Power that would add some 500 megawatts of renewable energy to the state’s portfolio over the next six years.

It would allow the utility to stagger the new alternative energy’s distribution, prioritizing it for those who have expressed an interest in it without imposing its likely higher costs on those who prefer energy from cheaper, traditional sources like coal and natural gas.

An executive for the company said in a release the plan is a win-win for energy consumers of all stripes.

“This allows Alabama Power to offer renewables where they make sense for our customers,” said Nick Sellers, VP of Regulatory and Corporate Affairs for the utility.

“We are pleased that the Public Service Commission has reviewed and approved this filing. We look forward to working with those customers who have interest in more renewable energy.”

Though the proposal was spearheaded by AP, a number of other organizations ranging from industrial to environmental were involved in crafting it: Southern Environmental Law Center, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Alabama Environmental Council, JobKeepers Alliance, Alabama Industrial Energy Consumers, and the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association were all present for the plan’s introduction, as were representatives of the state’s attorney general.

The new plan will allow the utility to either build its own renewable projects or secure agreements to purchase renewable energy from elsewhere. Each project can be no larger than 80 megawatts, and the first project must be under construction within a year.

State regulators retain the right to review all new projects and purchase agreements.

The move expands upon the utility’s already extant efforts to encourage renewable energy consumption.

Alabama Power customers already have the option to buy renewable energy credits, which represent the renewable energy attributes of energy the company is producing or purchasing. Customers can purchase RECs for as little as $1.25 per month. They can purchase as many RECs as they like – enough to match all their energy use, or more.

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