Critics: Duke Energy Needs to Expedite Coal Power Retirement

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana’s largest electric utility needs to move faster to retire its aging network of coal-fired power plants and replace them with cleaner, more renewable power sources, an environmentalist said.

Duke Energy Indiana officials said they hope to retire all nine of the utility’s coal-fired units by 2038 and construct two large natural-gas plants.

“We view this as the beginning of our transition to a more nimble, diversified fleet,” said Stan Pinegar, president of Duke Energy Indiana, which serves 840,000 electric customers in 69 of the state’s 92 counties.

But the environmentalists contend Duke is stalling and that other Indiana utilities are moving faster to mothball the plants, which spew carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

“Duke’s plan is exceptionally disappointing,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana.

Many environmentalists said they are pushing for utilities to expedite their timetable for transitioning to clean energy because the climate is getting warmer and the weather is becoming more severe.

Every three years, all Indiana electrical utilities are required to file 20-year plans that outline where they will get their power. Though plans are not solid commitments, the forecasts — known as integrated resource plans — are blueprints that let the public know how the companies intend to make investments in future decades.

Duke Energy filed its integrated resource plan July 1 with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. The plan balances the demands of customers, government guidelines and environmentalists, company officials said.

“There’s pressure on all sides with respect to this kind of planning,” Pinegar said. “But, you know, we have stakeholders who think we’re moving too fast; we have stakeholders who think we’re moving too slow. It’s a balancing act.”

But some other Indiana utilities are pivoting from coal substantially faster.

Last fall, Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co. announced plans to retire four of its five remaining coal-fired, electricity-generating units within five years and the other within a decade.

Vectren Corp., owned by Houston-based CenterPoint Energy Co., aims to retire three of its four coal-fired generating units in southern Indiana by 2024.

Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal,