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Indiana utilities move away from coal despite legislature’s efforts

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Indiana utilities move away from coal despite legislature’s efforts

Another utility company announced it will move away from coal soon, despite legislative efforts to slow down the transition.

Vectren Energy announced that it would transition its electric generation fleet by moving away from coal and including more renewable resources by 2025 despite a new law intended to make it harder for utilities to make that transition.

The company said it would replace older coal generation units generating 730 megawatts of power with renewable resource generation, including a large percentage of solar energy. Nearly two-thirds of the energy included in its new plan would come from renewable resources.

The company said in its Integrated Resource Plan that it would generate at least 700 megawatts from solar energy and 300 megawatts of wind energy, reducing carbon emissions by nearly 75%. By 2025 the company will rely on coal for only 12% of its energy generation.

“The proposed future portfolio ensures southwestern Indiana remains in attainment for air quality and promotes additional economic development in our region where we live and work,” said Lynnae Wilson, chief business officer for Indiana Electric Utility Business for CenterPoint Energy, Vectren’s parent company. “Avoiding future coal maintenance investments will ensure local generation has a responsible renewable-to-carbon balance while ensuring the reliability our customers expect. We are incredibly sensitive to customer impact, and with stakeholder input, we feel this planning process has produced a cost-effective plan that moves us toward a future built on cleaner generation.”

Vectren’s Integrated Resource Plan must be submitted to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, which has become one of the largest state-sanctioned obstacles to moving away from coal.

Earlier this year, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law House Bill 1414, which places restrictions on how and when utilities can move away from “legacy generation resources,” like coal-fired power plants.

Utilities are not allowed to retire, sell or transfer coal-fired power plants that produce more than 80 megawatts before May 1, 2021 unless they first provide written notice to the IURC and hold a public hearing. Utilities also cannot terminate a power agreement with a coal-fired power plant unless they give the IURC three years advance notice. 

Vectren and the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. have decided to move away from coal despite the new law. 

NIPSCO said it would retire four coal-fired power plants by 2023 and its Michigan City Generating Station ahead of schedule in 2028.

Vectren will submit its final Integrated Resource Plan to the IURC by June 30.

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