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US power capacity markets in flux amid energy transition toward renewables

Indiana's slowed energy transition could soon be picking up momentum


Some coal retirements are still years out

There have been delays in renewable additions

But company goals look ambitious

Houston — The Indiana power market, which is guided by a renewable portfolio standard of 10% by 2023, has total generation of 26,642 MW with approximately 2,700 MW of installed wind and solar capacity, which means the RPS has been reached.

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Installations of new wind and solar, however, have slowed considerably in the last two years, and the share of the state's electricity consumed that comes from renewables is approximately 6.5%, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.

What Indiana, like so many other Midwestern states, relies upon are the large number of coal and gas-fired generators that, as of April, had total in-state capacity of 23,840 MW, according to data from the EIA.

Sitting on large coal deposits, the state's power generating companies have some of the country's largest coal-fired facilities. Unlike some of its neighboring states, Indiana has never built nuclear generation.

The state's top generators, including Duke Energy Indiana, the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, Indiana Power & Light and Vectren, each own significant amounts of coal-fired capacity, but are sitting on plans to install significant amounts of new solar capacity.

Duke's Indiana subsidiary

Duke Energy Indiana, which ran nearly 90% coal generation in Indiana in 2018, owns the Gibson County, Indiana, five-unit coal-fired facility. The plant has 3,145 MW of capacity and is among the largest coal-fired facilities in the country.

According to the company's 2018-2037 integrated resource plan, the Gibson plant's 622-MW Unit 4 is due to be retired in 2026, while two other units aren't due to retire until 2034 and the remaining two not until 2038.

The company said, however, that it "continues" with its transition to "a cleaner energy future."

It said that since 2005 in Indiana, it has decreased sulfur dioxide emissions by 95%, nitrogen oxide emissions by 63% and carbon emissions by 21%

The company operates the 595-MW Edwardsport Station in Knox County, which a spokesperson on Monday said is "operating well and using both gasified coal and natural gas."

The IGCC plant, which took almost six years to bring to completion in 2013, converts coal to a synthesis gas, strips out many of the pollutants, and then burns the cleaner gas. The company has said there is no change in the IGCC unit's 2045 retirement date.

Duke Energy Indiana's IRP says that while coal-fired generation is "gradually retired, we expect to add 2,480 MW of cleaner burning natural gas, 700 MW of wind energy, and 1,650 MW of solar power all by the year 2037."

"We're creating a more diverse portfolio with less carbon and less risk than other alternatives that may rely more on purchased power from the market -- all while being cost competitive," it said.

A spokesperson confirmed that Duke Energy Indiana falls under its parent company's 2050 net-zero CO2 emissions goal.

NIPSCO, wind and solar

Wind installations soared in Indiana in the mid-2000s when developers moved north from Texas to Illinois and Indiana.

Illinois currently has 5,659 MW of installed wind, according to the American Wind Energy Associatioin, while Indiana has added no new wind capacity since the fourth quarter of 2018 and has 2,317 MW installed.

Michigan surpassed Indiana in Q1 2020 and now has 2,357 MW of wind, allowing it to claim 12th place in state rankings.

NIPSCO, though wants to retire the bulk of its coal generation capacity by 2023, and said in its October 2018 Integrated Resource Plan that it wants more renewables—both wind and solar.

In October 2019, NIPSCO and EDP Renewables North America executed a build and transfer agreement that will include the 302-MW Indiana Crossroads Wind Farm to White County, north of Lafayette, which is expected to come online in 2021. NIPSCO and EDPR also are building the 102 MW Rosewater Wind Farm in White County that is expected to be completed this year.

In addition to asking for more wind in a request for proposals in October, NIPSCO also asked for 2,300 MW of solar and solar-plus-storage projects.

The company has already said it plans to close its 1,780-MW R.M. Schahfer coal-fired generating station in Wheatfield, Indiana by 2023 and the 469-MW Michigan City coal-fired facility in Michigan City by 2028.

Vectren and IPL

On June 15, Evansville, Indiana-based Vectren, now owned by CenterPoint Energy, said that nearly two-thirds of the energy included in its new integrated resource plan "will be generated from renewable resources, reducing reliance on carbon fuels and lowering carbon emissions by nearly 75% from 2005 levels" over the next 20-years.

Indiana Power & Light, which has 3,555 MW of current generating capacity, says it has seen its coal-fired generation capacity fall from 79% of its total in 2007 to 43% in 2019.

It said it wants to see coal-fired capacity decrease to 28% by 2023 and then to 19% by 2039. The company has said that by 2039 it wants to see gas at 27% of capacity, wind at 16% and solar at 29%.