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Hoosier Energy to shutter coal-fired plant in Indiana

Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative Inc. became the latest Indiana utility to plan a reduction in its coal-fired generating capacity, saying Jan. 21 that its board of directors approved a long-range resource plan that includes shutting its coal-fired Merom Generating Station in Sullivan County, Ind., in 2023.

The decision to retire Merom, which began operating in 1982, follows a yearlong review by the company, which supplies generating and transmission service to 18 member distribution cooperatives in Indiana and Illinois. Hoosier Energy plans to shift to a "more diverse generation mix," adding more wind, solar, natural gas and storage to its portfolio, according to a news release, which noted that the plan is part of an overall effort to cut Hoosier Energy's carbon footprint by 80%.

Hoosier Energy said the shift will save its member cooperatives' customers $700 million over two decades.

The two-unit Merom plant has a capacity of 1,070 MW, according to Hoosier Energy. It received coal in 2016 from Peabody Energy Corp.'s Bear Run mine in Sullivan County, Ind., and Hallador Energy Co.'s Oaktown Fuels Mine No. 1 in Knox County, Ind., according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

The plant also totals about half of Hoosier Energy's owned power generation capacity, though it also has other sources of supply, including renewables, under contract.

Hoosier Energy's announcement came just days after Indiana legislators introduced a bill that would require public utilities to obtain advance approval from state regulators before retiring power plants. NiSource Inc. subsidiary Northern Indiana Public Service Co. plans to retire all of its coal-fired capacity in the state by 2028. Indianapolis Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of AES Corp., said in December 2019 that it would retire the two oldest units at its Petersburg plant by 2023.

As for the Merom plant site, Hoosier Energy said it is considering selling the facility, marketing portions of the site for industrial development or installing renewable generation at the site.