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Indiana House Passes Bill Delaying the Retirement of ‘Legacy’ Power Plants

March 20, 2020
By Kevin Stone

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill to prevent public utilities planning from closing ‘legacy’ power generating facilities—any power plant considered ‘a reliable capacity’ provider—without securing approval from state regulators.

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent public utilities from closing “legacy” power-generating facilities—any power plant considered a “reliable capacity” provider—without securing approval from state regulators.

Although coal is not directly named in House Bill 1414, it is aimed primarily at preventing utilities from prematurely closing existing coal-fueled power plants which have historically provided reliable baseload electric power—the minimum amount of electric power needed to supply the electrical grid at any given time—without adequately securing equally reliable replacement power and without accounting for the costs of power-shifting.

If the bill passes, utilities will have to provide the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) six months’ advance notice before announcing plans to cancel a contract to supply or purchase power from a legacy power plant, or closing or selling a legacy power plant, most of which use coal for fuel. During that time, the IURC would determine the reasonable costs incurred by the public utility under its planned action and ascertain how the plan might affect electric power reliability in its service area.

Any planned closure, contract termination, or sale would also have to be at least three years in the future from the date when the utility formally notified IURC of the plan. Any rate changes or charges associated with the action would require IURC approval.

The bill is now in the state Senate, which has yet to act on it.

Coal Dominant

Coal remains the largest single energy source powering Indiana, accounting for 929.3 trillion BTU of the state’s 2,700 trillion BTU of annual energy consumption. Natural gas is the second-largest source of energy in Indiana, at 747.9 trillion BTU.

Providing approximately 60 percent of the state’s electric power, coal also accounts for most of the electrical generation in Indiana, providing 5,391,000 MWh of the 8,991,000 MWh of electricity generated by all sources in the state.

This bill is about ensuring an orderly transition to renewable power supplies and that power switching doesn’t compromise reliability or come as a price shock to ratepayers, said Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) in explaining to the press why he introduced the bill.

“Whether that’s coal or rabbits on a treadmill, we need the lights to come on when we flip the switch,” Soliday said. “We’re in transition … and [a]ll we’re asking to do is manage it.”

‘Time to Cool Off’

This bill provides a reasonable cooling-off period preventing Indianans from being stampeded into accepting less-reliable energy sources, says Jay Lehr, Ph.D., a senior policy analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition.

“These are not the power plants of your grandfather’s day,” Lehr said. “They simply produce no contaminating emissions that are harmful to our environment or our own health.

“This new legislation makes all the sense in the world,” Lehr said. “Citizens need time to cool off and carefully consider the impacts the premature, unnecessary closure of coal power plants on Indiana’s economy.”

Kevin Stone (kevin.s.stone@gmail.com) writes from Dallas, Texas.

Official Connection:

Indiana state Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso): https://www.indianahouserepublicans.com/members/leadership/ed-soliday/; https://www.indianahouserepublicans.com/forms/contact-your-representative/?formField_Representative=Rep.%20Ed%20Soliday%20%28HD%204%29