Coal-fired power plants lost more than $1.2 billion in January and February, a study by the research institute RMI shows, another sign of the high cost of the fuel compared to others, particularly wind and solar.

Three of the biggest losers were the two plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp. (OVEC) and Indiana Michigan Power’s Rockport station in Indiana. All three have been targeted for closure for environmental and economic reasons.

Clifty Creek in Indiana and Kyger Creek in Ohio, both owned by OVEC, lost $108 million and $69 million respectively. Rockport, meanwhile, lost $103 million.

RMI analyzed data reported to the federal Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency by the plants and utilities companies that own them to determine that coal is continuing to be one of the most costly and inefficient forms of generation. It is also the most polluting.

The information is posted on RMI’s economic dispatch dashboard, which contains details on the coal plants running in the United States. Congress has defined economic dispatch as “the operation of generation facilities to produce energy at the lowest cost to reliably serve consumers, recognizing any operational limits of generation and transmission facilities.” Self-dispatching refers to the practice of generating electricity and dispatching it to the grid automatically, whether it is profitable for the generator or not.

OVEC self-dispatches electricity from its plants automatically, and Ohio ratepayers have to make up the losses. That means OVEC generates income whether it’s profitable or not.

Meanwhile, multiple other reports show that electricity generated by renewable sources — wind and solar — continues to become steadily cheaper as technology improves.

Ohio ratepayers must subsidize the losses of both OVEC plants — Clifty Creek and Kyger Creek in Ohio — because of HB 6, a 2019 Ohio law that was passed after a $61 million bribery campaign that has resulted in two convictions, two guilty pleas and the suicides of two defendants.

The OVEC’s high costs and inability to make a consistent profit has been highlighted in an audit into HB 6 by the firm London Economics International Inc. The audit concluded that the plants are inefficient, pay too much for coal and could be replaced by cheaper gas-fired plants.

Since 2015, according to RMI, Clifty Creek has lost $194 million while Kyger Creek has lost $111 million.

Rockport’s continued challenges

The Rockport plant has lost an estimated $510 million since 2015, according to RMI’s dashboard. The plant is scheduled to close in 2028, although environmental and consumer activists want it to close before then.

Checks & Balances Project has reported that Rockport stays open because owner AEP owes investors more than $190 million in municipal bond debt that is paid by income generated by Rockport’s operations. If the plant closes earlier than scheduled, AEP will either have to float another bond issue at higher interest rates to pay off the debt or use other operating revenue.

In April, the Michigan Public Service rejected $10 million in costs I&M Power tried to foist on Michigan ratepayers, saying “the costs of energy generated by the Rockport plant were well above other long-term supply benchmarks,”

Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks & Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.

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