Closing coal plants is becoming big business and a disaster for consumers | Columnists

If you think the accelerating pivot to renewable energy is all about cleaning up, think again. An increasing number of utilities are under mounting pressure from Wall Street and their shareholders to spend and pass the costs of new wind turbines, solar farms, and transmission infrastructure off to their ratepayers. New projects mean new guaranteed returns for shareholders.

This is greenwashing. Utilities are using the transition to renewables as a guise to prematurely close well-operating coal plants and build new capacity far before they otherwise would need to. And thanks to the emergence of an accounting practice called securitization, utilities are able to close coal plants early, pass the costs of doing so onto consumers, and then charge consumers for building more expensive, less reliable replacements. How is this possible? Under the banner of “tackling climate change,” public service commissions – who are supposed to protect ratepayers – are rubber-stamping the practice.

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