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article imageNorthern Indiana utility transitioning from coal to renewables

By Karen Graham     Nov 5, 2018 in Business
A northern Indiana utility has added another nail into coal's coffin, announcing the retirement of four coal-fired power plants and a turn to renewable energy.
Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) told state regulators last week it was planning on retiring its four coal-fired units at its Wheatfield plant by 2023, and a coal-fired unit in Michigan City by 2028, increasing its use of renewables for electricity production under its “Your Energy, Your Future” initiative.
NIPSCO filed its latest Integrated Resource Plan on October 31. They detail how the company will generate 65 percent of its power from renewables, like wind, solar, and other renewables by 2028.
The company also said that 25 percent of its electricity will be generated from natural gas by 2028. The coal-fired units are the company's last in the state. NIPSCO had announced earlier this year it would be moving up the retirement of the coal-fired units.
View from a distance of the NIPSCO power plant cooling tower on the edge of Lake Michigan.
View from a distance of the NIPSCO power plant cooling tower on the edge of Lake Michigan.
John J. Mosesso/USGS
Renewables far cheaper for customers
NIPSCO is looking at the cost savings for its customers - like over $4 million over the next couple of decades. However, the Indy Star points out the long-term savings will come with a short-term price. The utility is asking for a rate hike to pay for the new infrastructure.
"It's no surprise that the quicker you retire coal, that would equate to cost savings for customers, so we knew that," NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris told IndyStar. "But the pace of evolution with the market and technology was really picking up and that led us to say that maybe it no longer makes sense to rely on past assumptions."
"We asked ourselves," she continued, "is there something we can do differently?" Sistovaris says that after crunching the numbers, the company was very surprised to find that solar and wind are more cost effective and more efficient than both coal and natural gas.
Big businesses say they want to help the transition to clean energy. Pictured here is an unused coal...
Big businesses say they want to help the transition to clean energy. Pictured here is an unused coal mine in Black Mountain, Virginia.
NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP/File
“Customers want what’s best for their families: Energy that is affordable, reliable and sustainable," Sistovaris said in a statement.
“NIPSCO’s new plan puts them front and center. We have the opportunity to invest in balanced options that will deliver more cost-effective and cleaner energy for our customers. The ‘Your Energy, Your Future’ initiative envisions a brighter future that delivers the energy our customers need while reducing emissions and focusing on the long-term strength of our local economy.”
Indiana is ranked in the top ten states nationwide for coal production and consumption. Merrillville, Indiana-based NIPSCO is Indiana's largest natural gas distributor and its second-largest power producer. The company serves customers across 32 counties.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), as late as 2016, Indiana was second only to Texas in total coal consumption. However, Indiana's coal consumption has steadily dropped in the last 20 years. EIA data shows 98 percent of the state’s power came from coal in 1998, but that dropped to about 71 percent in 2016.
Actually, in an EIA report dated September 10, 2018, in 2017, coal provided the largest generation share in 18 states, down from 28 states in 2007.
More about Renewable energy, Indiana, NIPSCO, Coalfired, Natural gas
 
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