Indiana’s energy future is at a crossroads. Coal generates approximately eighty-two percent of Indiana’s electricity, while wind and other renewables make up a mere three percent. Investing primarily in one type of fuel is a risky and expensive business proposition for both the utility and ratepayers. No smart investor would place all their eggs in one basket. This should ring even more true for utilities as more stringent regulations on coal-fired power plants are being implemented and proposed.

rockport2

Pollutants streaming out of the coal-powered Rockport plant in Southern Indiana.

Despite their public rhetoric, utilities have options to meet these federal regulations: retire coal units and replace capacity with energy efficiency and renewable generation, repower with natural gas, or retrofit coal plants to extend their lifespan. Inappropriately, Indiana utilities are choosing to continue to put their money—rather your money—into prolonging the use of coal.

So why not choose the cheaper and cleaner alternative? It’s simple. By being a regulated monopoly, the more of your money they spend, the more profit they make. Coal is the most expensive option, so they choose coal.

Two of Indiana’s utilities currently are facing tight timelines to comply with new EPA regulations. As a result of their lack of adequate long-term planning, Duke Energy is seeking $430 million now and will be asking for almost another $1 billion of your money later this year to retrofit the majority of their coal fleet. Indianapolis Power and Light wants $511 million on top of the already approved $615 million to extend the life of their coal fleet which has an average age of 40 years.

While these retrofits will provide some protection against toxic air emissions, metals captured in the pollution control equipment merely transfers pollution from air to water, particularly when coal ash is improperly disposed or reused, which is a common occurrence at Indiana coal plants.

Instead, the first step should be aggressively investing in energy efficiency, which avoids immediate costs of having to build expensive new power plants and avoids wasting billions on retrofits to extend the use of 1950s technology. Additionally, investments in new generation for wind and solar farms, roof top photovoltaic energy and distributed energy are already cheaper and/or competitive to build, have far shorter construction times which means less exposure to cost increases and risk, have no fuel costs, and experience significantly lower operation and maintenance costs.

Citizens Action Coalition pays attention, particularly when economically and environmentally risky decisions are at hand. CAC partnered with Sierra Club and other environmental organizations and intervened in the Duke and IPL cases currently pending before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

What can you do as a citizen and ratepayer in Indiana?

  • Visit www.citact.org to learn more about what CAC does and help support us in our work to protect the public.
  • Contact the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor to oppose Duke’s request in Cause No. 44217 and IPL’s in Cause No. 44242 and to instead invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Support consumer, environmental, or public interest organizations of your choice.
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