Team Effort

In the midst of an ongoing assault from the federal government, American Electric Power executives continue to look for ways to improve efficiency – and financial performance – in order to keep the company afloat and electricity flowing to its customers. A few employees in West Virginia are helping the company do that.

One executive credited employees of the John Amos power plant, a coal-fired facility in Putnam County, with saving the company millions of dollars.

Folks who unload coal barges saw improvements could be made to both the equipment and process for getting the coal off the river. Rail delivery of the coal was costing AEP $5 more per ton than barge delivery, but barge delivery had been much slower.

“They reviewed the plant’s barge unloading system that led to a $6 million investment to be made, but it reduces coal costs by $10 million per year,” said AEP Chief Executive Officer Nick Akins, who called the development “very, very positive.”

Even small steps, such as the one suggested by an Appalachian Power employee in the Charleston area to wash flagging vests instead of discarding them to buy news ones, add up to large savings for the company. AEP will then have a better chance at staying healthy as it weathers the storm of what Akins called “unrealistic” rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“To expect energy efficiency overall to improve 1.5 percent per year, when EPRI itself, the Electric Power Research Institute, has determined only 0.5 percent to 0.6 percent can be achieved annually, certainly goes beyond aspirational thinking,” Akins said.

At least Akins and his fellow executives know they can count on common sense and ingenuity from the company’s employees here in West Virginia to make the efficiency improvements that are possible. It is probably too much to hope anyone in Washington, D.C., would follow such an example.