-- A proposal aimed at making it more difficult for Indiana electric
companies to close additional coal-fired power plants faces objections from
consumer and environmental groups who argue it could stifle growth in
renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
The Indiana House
utilities committee voted 9-4 Wednesday along party lines to advance the
bill to the full House. That vote came after the committee scaled back the
bill so that restrictions on power plant closures only last until July 2021.
Republican Rep. Ed
Soliday of Valparaiso, the bill’s sponsor, said he wanted a one-year pause
in additional plant closings because of what he sees as a gap for when
renewable sources can provide reliable and stable electricity service. He
also said he wants the delay so more plant closings aren’t in motion before
a state energy task force completes a report for legislators that’s due in
"We will need the
backup power until this thing sorts out,” Soliday said.
The proposal comes
as Indiana’s four main electric utilities intend to close several
coal-burning plants in the coming years. Those include plans from
Indianapolis Power & Light Co. to retire by 2023 two of the four
coal-burning units at its Petersburg Generating Station in southeastern
Indiana, while Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co. aims
to shut down four of its five remaining coal-fired units within five years.
analyst Emily Medine argued in support of the bill, saying existing
coal-burning plants provide affordable and reliable power, and closing those
plants would be an irreversible decision.
The consumer group
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana maintains the pause unnecessarily
hampers the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and gives incentives to an
outdated power source.
“It interferes in
the market place,” said Kerwin Olson, the group’s executive director. “It is
going to cost customers money, it’s going to increase regulatory lag.”
executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said he worried
about the one-year pause being extended and hindering the development of
cleaner energy sources.
“Right now, the
bill is a temporary roadblock to modernizing the power sector in Indiana but
we’re worried about it becoming a permanent roadblock,” Kharbanda said.