- Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) on Wednesday revealed a tentative plan to shut down the majority of its coal generation within five years, and to stop burning coal entirely within the next decade.
- The utility has five remaining coal-fired units totaling 1,800 MW. Four units at its R.M. Schahfer Generating Station would be retired no later than 2023, while a single unit at Michigan City Generating Station would retire by 2028.
- NIPSCO, a subsidiary of NiSource, said it would consider wind, solar and battery storage to replace the retiring units, following a trend that has been spreading across the sector, despite efforts from the White House to stop it.
NIPSCO's announcement means another utility has decided to abandon coal, as cheap gas, renewables and effective markets continue to ravage that sector. The decision is "not yet final," but is "the most viable option for customers," according to an announcement from the company.
The utility laid out its plan at a public meeting on Wednesday with customers, consumer representatives, environmental organizations and other stakeholders taking part in the company's integrated resource planning process. The decision to shutter the plants offered the "best cost, cleanest electric supply mix available while maintaining reliability, diversity and flexibility for technology and market changes," NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris said.
Despite orders from the White House, President Trump has not succeeded in ending the roll call of failing coal plants. Over the summer, he directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to come up with a plan to stop the closures. Industry experts have warned that government intervention could cause havoc in markets which are working — albeit forcing the coal plant closures.
In an FAQ responding to questions on the decision to shutter its plants, NIPSCO said it would continue to operate its existing gas-fired generating station and two hydroelectric plants. How to replace the coal-fired plants is still being determined, but the utility said right now the most "viable replacement options point toward the addition of largely renewable energy resources, with the combination of battery storage technology."
“Retiring our aging coal fleet sooner will cost substantially less compared to our original plans for extending retirements over a longer duration," Sistovaris said. Previously, NIPSCO had been aiming to retire half of its coal-fired generation by 2023. The company plans to submit a plan by Nov. 1 to execute the closures.