Sierra Club — “Duke Indiana IRP adds 2.35 GW wind and solar, keeps some coal online for almost 20 years”

Robert Walton, Utility Dive, June 24, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • Duke Energy Indiana on June 20 proposed a 20-year integrated resource plan that calls for adding 2,480 MW of gas-fired generation, 700 MW of wind and 1,650 MW of solar power, while continuing to operate some coal units for almost two decades.
  • The plan also calls for accelerating the retirement of seven coal units, and shuttering 10 units totaling more than 4 GW over the next seven to 19 years. 
  • In a summary of its plan, Duke cautioned “these are not final decisions to retire units or add new power generation.” The Sierra Club called on the coal-dependent utility to “reconsider” its plan, saying “Duke is still burning too much coal for too long, and those gas plants should never be built.”

Dive Insight:

Almost 90% of Indiana’s electricity was produced by coal-fired plants last year, said Duke, and the company acknowledges it needs to make a change — but activists say the utility is not moving fast enough.

“Coal emits carbon dioxide when it is burned, and our customers would be hurt by harsh carbon regulations that must be met very quickly,” Duke said in its IRP overview. “Also, the cost of renewable power has been declining, and customers want cleaner power options. For all those reasons we are focused on diversifying our power generation.”

Along with changes to its generation mix, Duke will also continue to lean on efficiency efforts it says have helped customers save more than 1.6 billion kWh over the last decade.

Duke will speed the retirement of its coal-fired Cayuga Station in Vermillion County — the 500 MW Unit 1 will retire in 2028 rather than 2035 and the 495 MW Unit 2 will retire in 2028, rather than 2037.

All five units at the coal-fired Gibson Station (each between 620 MW and 630 MW) will be retired earlier than previously planned. Units 1 and 2 will retire in 2038 rather than in 2041 and 2040, respectively. Unit 3 will retire in 2034, rather than 2043. Unit 4 will retire soonest, in 2026 rather than 2044. And Unit 5 will come offline in 2034, ahead of the previously-announced 2047 closure.

The two units at the 280 MW coal-fired Gallagher Station are still planning to shut down in 2022. There is also no change in the 2045 retirement date of the 595 MW Edwardport Station coal-to-gas plant. Duke will close its 300 MW Noblesville Station gas-fired combined cycle plant in 2034, rather than 2038.

“Generation diversity is essential for a robust plan,” the utility said. “Some generation sources are better for the environment, some are more economical and some are required for meeting 24/7 energy needs — a balanced mix is necessary.”

But environmental activists say the utility should be doing more, and called for Duke to reconsider its proposal.

“It’s as if Duke Energy Indiana lives on another planet,” Wendy Bredhold, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Indiana, said in a statement. While the group is happy to see “some modest coal retirements,” Duke is still too reliant on coal and natural gas and is “failing to take advantage of current tax incentives for wind and solar,” she said.

Coal’s decline has been accelerating in the United States, as the price of renewables and gas has declined. Analysis from Ceres recently showed generation of zero-carbon resources surpassed coal and gas individually in the U.S for the first time in 2017 — though gas and coal combined still made up over half the country’s generation.

In 2017, carbon-free resources made up 35.4% of electricity generation, beating out coal’s 29.8% and natural gas’ 32.1%.

A previous version of this article misstated how much gas generation Duke Energy Indiana plans to add by 2037 and how many coal plants it plans to shut down. Those numbers are 2,480 MW and 10, respectively.

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