Soaring West Virginia Electricity Prices Trigger Standoff Over the State’s Devotion to Coal Power

West Virginia regulators accuse American Electric Power of driving up costs with skimpy use of its coal plants. Others say the high costs of those aging plants are a growing burden to citizens in one of the nation’s poorest states.

West Virginia is a standout in its allegiance to coal power.

In the United States as a whole, coal’s share of the electricity mix has fallen from around half in 2005 to just 22 percent as the nation has turned to cheaper natural gas and increasingly, renewable energy. By contrast, West Virginia generated 91 percent of its power from coal in 2021—with no other state even coming close. While uneconomic coal plants across the nation were being shut down, West Virginia even approved a transfer of responsibility for several major coal plants from corporate shareholders to the state’s ratepayers.

Critics of West Virginia’s pro-coal policies say the results are now evident in the state’s skyrocketing utility bills. Household customers of one of the state’s largest utilities, American Electric Power (AEP), have seen their electricity rates rise 180 percent in the past 15 years, five times the average increase for ratepayers in the United States.

“It’s all about overwhelming economic forces,” said James Van Nostrand, professor at the West Virginia University College of Law and director of its Center for Energy and Sustainable Development. “The rest of the country embraced natural gas, they embraced wind and solar, and we doubled down on coal. And the West Virginia ratepayers are paying for that.”


This is true. But since the state is relatively small they are not the biggest producer of coal. Wyoming is by a factor of ~3x

  • Wyoming—238,773 tons of coal
  • West Virginia—78,501


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That was not the point of the article. The point was the soaring electricity costs. Wyoming is not having soaring electricity costs.


But, if I understand correctly, this is about BURNING coal for power, not PRODUCING coal to ship to other countries to burn.

73% of electricity comes from coal in Wyoming; They export coal too…very little but to 28 states

  • Coal power provided 42.7TWh of Wyoming electricity in 2016, compared to 3.8 TWh for the second largest
  • Almost all Wyoming coal is consumed in the United States, In 2015, out of 376 million short tons of coal mined in Wyoming, 52,400 tons were exported, less than one-tenth of one percent.[15] Wyoming coal is shipped out of Wyoming for use in 28 states, from Oregon and Washington on the Pacific coast, to New York and Maryland on the Atlantic coast. As of 2015, the top five states consuming Wyoming coal, other than Wyoming itself, are: Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Iowa, Together, these five states consume more than half the coal shipped out of Wyoming.


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Most power plants burn Wyoming coal because it is low sulfur compared to eastern coal. But usually Wyoming coal is much cheaper than eastern coal. Ie, the delivered price is competitive.

Coal prices have probably recovered from the depths when everyone believed the industry was dying. But you may suspect that the price of diesel fuel is driving up the cost to railroads. Hence, the big increases in cost come mostly from the diesel fuel problem.

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