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Vectren reveals plan to exit 730 MW of coal, add 1,000 MW of renewables

Vectren Corp. has signaled a shift away from coal and into cleaner energy as part of a preferred resource plan that reduces the utility's emissions.

The CenterPoint Energy Inc. subsidiary revealed plans June 15 to shut down its 490-MW A.B. Brown coal plant in 2023 and add at least 1,000 MW of renewable generation through 2024 as part of an integrated resource plan to be filed June 30 with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

Vectren said its preferred portfolio will reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2035 from 2005 levels and save customers $320 million over the next 20 years. The utility's preferred resource mix would transition to 12% coal capacity by 2025 from 78% in 2020, while its reliance on natural gas would increase to 24% from 12% during the same time frame.

Vectren plans to install 50 MW of solar capacity in 2021 and add 300 MW of wind generation in 2022. It will retire both A.B. Brown coal units and the 90-MW F.B. Culley coal unit 2 in 2023, according to its final public stakeholder meeting. Vectren will exit its 150-MW stake in the Warrick coal plant in 2023 but will continue to operate the 270-MW F.B. Culley unit 3 beyond 2025.

The preferred portfolio also calls for adding 700 MW to 1,000 MW of solar and storage in the 2023-2024 time frame and two natural gas combustion turbines consisting of 460 MW of capacity in 2024.

Vectren's 2025 resource mix will consist of 12% coal, 24% natural gas, 31% solar, 16% solar plus storage, 15% wind and 2% demand response.

Vectren operates its electric business in Indiana through subsidiary Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Co.

"The [integrated resource plan, or IRP] considers a broad range of potential conditions and variables to determine a preferred fuel mix which allows Vectren to meet future electric energy demand in a safe and reliable manner," Lynnae Wilson, chief business officer of Southern Indiana Gas and Electric, said in a news release. "Over the next several months, we will finalize our generation plan, taking into consideration cost, COVID-19 impacts, efficiency and reliability while recognizing the need for flexibility given ever-advancing technology in a rapidly evolving industry."

The filing of the resource plan will come a little more than a year after Indiana regulators rejected Vectren's request to replace generation capacity from three coal-fired power plants with an 850-MW, combined-cycle natural gas plant. The regulator said the utility failed to adequately consider alternatives such as building multiple smaller-scale renewable generation resources.

"Using what we have learned from this IRP process, we will be pursuing a much larger percentage of renewable energy, as well as continuing to offer energy efficiency programs to ensure customers have options to use energy wisely," Wilson said. "We are committed to developing a transition plan that is responsive to our customers and the direction received from the IURC in its 2019 order which considers the various risks and economic impacts of each step."

In a progress report filed June 15 on its 50-MW solar plant, Southern Indiana Gas and Electric told state regulators the $76.1 million project will not be completed until the second quarter of 2021 "due to construction and impacts of COVID-19 related delays." The utility had expected the project to be complete Dec. 1.

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