Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) announced it will stop burning coal at the Harding Street Generation Station by mid-year 2016.
IPL spokesperson Brandi Davis-Handy says the utility company will file plans with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to re-power Unit Seven of the plant to natural gas. The conversion is a part of the utility’s overall wastewater compliance plan for its power plants.
“The plan the IURC approved in May called for Units Five and Six to be converted to natural gas and for Unit Seven to remain with coal with clean quality improvements made,” said Davis-Handy. “However over the last year, studies have determined that plan will no longer be cost effective for IPL or its customers.”
Davis-Handy says the cost analysis for the original plan was estimated at $95 million, however more recent studies indicated the cost would exceed $200 million. There will still be some rate increases likely associated with the conversion from coal to natural gas, however Davis-Handy estimates that will likely amount to about one dollar more on a resident’s monthly bill.
“IPL has a commitment to provide affordable electricity, and converting Harding Street Unit Seven to natural gas is the best plan for our customers because it is the reasonable, least cost option,” said IPL President and CEO Kelly Huntington in a press release. “Compliance with current and future EPA standards will continue to increase the cost of electricity for our customers.”
The new wastewater compliance plan will be filed with the IURC next month.
The announcement comes just prior to Monday’s City-County Council meeting where the council is scheduled to vote on a resolution encouraging IPL to stop burning coal in Indianapolis by 2020.
Councilor Zach Adamson (D-At-Large), who championed this effort and drafted the resolution, said he was floored when he heard the news.
“Since the resolution has 11 co-sponsors, a group discussion will need to be had,” said Adamson. “However, I think I can say at this point that there will be overwhelming support for striking the resolution.”
The Sierra Club carried the torch of the Beyond Coal campaign for over 50 environmental, neighborhood, student, civic, and church groups calling for IPL to stop burning coal in Indianapolis for environmental and public health reasons. Large groups like the Hoosier Environmental Council, the Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, Citizens Action Coalition and the NAACP provided leadership and support for the public awareness campaign.
“For the past two years, thousands of Indianapolis residents have demanded clean air for our community. They have signed petitions and postcards, rallied on the steps of Monument Circle and at the Indiana State Museum, and urged their City-County Councillors to call on IPL to stop burning coal at the Harding Street plant,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Today, those calls have been answered and we’ll see an end to coal pollution in Marion County by 2016.”
Since the Harding Street Generation Station is the 500th coal-fired plant in the country since 2010 to be scheduled for retirement, representatives of the various groups in the Beyond Coal campaign celebrated their victory in the style of the Indianapolis 500, with a toast and chug of milk.
“IPL has long been a strong corporate partner for the city, helping to build an Indianapolis we can all be proud of. I want to thank IPL for recognizing what the community has been saying for some time: part of being a first-class city is having clean air and clean water,” said Adamson. “Our children and people struggling with asthma will be breathing easier once IPL stops burning coal in Indianapolis.”