When it comes to coal, Indiana is a big player. It's the eighth-largest producer of coal in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the third-largest consumer.
The vast majority is used for generating electricity. But one Indiana utility announced this week that it plans to go coal-free by the end of the decade.
CenterPoint Energy, which delivers electricity to roughly 150,000 customers in southwest Indiana, made that public in a 20-year plan released Wednesday. The utility also provides natural gas for heat and appliances to customers across Indiana.
This plan is expected to support "reliability and is continuing our strategy of providing cleaner electricity," said Richard Leger, senior vice president of the utility's Indiana Electric division.
The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign in Indiana, which has been deeply engaged in in CenterPoint's planning process over the years, said the forecast is encouraging.
"This plan, while not perfect, represents significant progress," campaign representative Wendy Bredhold said in a release. "One of our campaign goals is to phase coal out by 2030 to improve public health, clean up our air and water, and preserve the climate."
What did CenterPoint announce, specifically?
In its preferred portfolio released Wednesday, CenterPoint said it planned to continue investing in renewable generation and to end its use of Indiana coal by 2027.
It will stop burning coal at its Culley 3 unit in Warrick County, which is the last of CenterPoint's coal units to be announced for retirement. Culley 2 retires in 2025 and one of its other facilities, AB Brown, retires this year. CenterPoint also plans to end a cooperation agreement in 2024 with Alcoa to burn coal at one of the utility's plants.
What will replace that power?
A mix of renewable energy and natural gas will replace the coal plants. One Culley plant will be converted to natural gas by 2027. That will maintain its 270 megawatts of capacity.
Last year, state utility regulators approved construction of two new natural gas units to provide 460 megawatts of energy to replace coal units retiring this at AB Brown.
CenterPoint also plans to add 200 megawatts each of wind and solar by the end of the decade, with the potential for another 400 megawatts of wind resources in 2032.
What impacts will this change have?
Currently, as much as 85% of CenterPoint's electricity for its southwest Indiana customers comes from coal. In just seven years, it expects that more than 80% of CenterPoint's power will come from solar and wind. The remainder will come from the new natural gas being constructed, which CenterPoint said will run about 15% of the time.
The utility said the plan will reduce carbon emissions by more than 95% over 20 years. It also is expected to save customers nearly $80 million over that time compared to the use of coal.
CenterPoint will submit its proposal to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission by June 1. The IURC will then issue a report with its comments, which likely will come next year.
What are other utilities doing?
Of Indiana's five investor-owned utilities, four — including CenterPoint — have announced plans to phase out coal by 2030. NIPSCO, which serves northern Indiana, plans to be coal-free by 2028.
AES Indiana, formerly Indianapolis Power & Light, as well as Indiana Michigan Power, which serves Eastern Indiana, also have announced plans to stop burning coal in the next five years.
Who is the one hold-out in Indiana?
Duke Energy is the only Indiana utility that plans to burn coal after 2030. A couple years ago, the state's largest utility said it would stop burning coal in Indiana by 2035. It will build a natural gas plant as well as a large mix of renewable resources to replace it.
Duke cites a cost impact to customers for retiring and replacing power plants.
"We have the largest generating fleet in the state," spokeswoman Angeline Protogere said, "and we're making the largest transition from coal-fired power in the state."
Sierra Club said Duke Energy's plans "ignore climate science" and are not helping to avoid the worsening impacts of climate change.
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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: CenterPoint Energy plans to stop burning coal in Indiana by 2027