Indiana Michigan Power's plan to burn coal could cost billions, greens say

Dive Brief:

  • Indiana Michigan Power (I&M)'s most recent integrated resource plan calls for the continues operation of the Rockport Generating Station, located on the Ohio River in southern Indiana. In its 20-year plan, released last year, the utility intends to continue to make improvements to the facility through 2028. 
  • The Sierra Club has countered that the energy from the coal plant is not needed to meet customer demand, and the facility should be shuttered while I&M builds more renewable energy, the Star Press reports. 
  • Rockport is a necessary baseload plant, I&M responded, and producing excess energy for exports is part of the state's plan to reduce costs and attract businesses.
  • The Sierra Club says it will cost I&M billions of dollars to continue operating the plant.

Dive Insight:

It's not clear what it would cost to upgrade the Rockport facility, but I&M says it considered retiring one unit prior to 2035 and found that retaining both resulted in cost savings up to $300 billion. The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, however, believes billions will be needed to keep the two units operating.

"Our argument and their own numbers show it would make more sense for them to just walk away from that lease (of Unit 2) and let the owners have that plant on their hands and build cleaner energy," Sierra Club's Jodi Perras told The Star Press. "Are they going to put billions — that's billions with a B — of dollars into that plant or are they going to invest instead in clean energy at the same cost or even less in the communities they serve?"
I&M's lease on Unit 2 is up in 2022, while it owns Unit 1.
The utility counters that 50% of its power is carbon-free: It has some hydro, 450 MW of wind, is planning a little solar, and has almost 2,200 MW from the Donald Cook nuclear facility on Lake Michigan. But the Sierra Club has noted than I&M's customer demand can be met without the Rockport facility, leading the utility to defend its strategy.
"The fact is you have policy makers throughout the state of Indiana who want to ensure Indiana is a net exporter of generation," I&M spokesman Brian Bergsma told the paper. "And what that means is there is an opportunity for Indiana to utilize generating capabilities as an economic development tool and sell generation to other states … I&M has always been a company that has excess generating revenue. That offsets the costs that native load would cost our customers. Our customers have benefited by Indiana being a net exporter."

I&M's resource plan calls for an additional 600 MW of large-scale solar resources, 1,350 MW of wind resources, a 1,235 MW combined-cycle gas facility, and energy efficiently reductions of 70 MW by 2035.

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Filed Under: Generation
Top image credit: Flickr; Jim Richmond