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Vectren plan to retire most coal-fired generation criticized by Indiana consumer counselor

Louisville, Kentucky — Vectren's proposal to retire most of its coal-fired generation and replace it with a 850-MW, natural gas-fired plant in 2023 came under fire Monday from Indiana utility consumer counselor Bill Fine, who accused the utility of failing to fully evaluate "all viable options for meeting its electric customers' future power supply needs."

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The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is reviewing Vectren's plan to replace about 700 MW of existing coal generation with the combined-cycle gas plant. An IURC order is expected next year.

In a response Monday afternoon, Evansville-based Vectren said it feels confident "that our generation plan is the best option for our electric customers in southwestern Indiana. The new natural gas plant will provide reliable, cleaner energy in addition to local jobs in Posey County." The utility also proposes to construct a 50-MW solar energy farm in the area.

The utility wants to retire its AB Brown coal plant in Posey County, close all but 270-MW Unit 3 at its Culley coal plant in Warrick County and exit a 150-MW ownership interest in Alcoa's 755-MW Warrick coal plant in 2023. The moves are aimed at slashing Vectren's carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2024.

As part of its planned expenditures, Vectren seeks to spend $95 million to install additional pollution controls on Culley Unit 3 so it can continue operating until at least 2036.

Consumer counselor Fine essentially said Vectren's generation plan was not well thought out.

"Any electric utility that seeks to overhaul its generation fleet today must evaluate all possible options," he said in a statement. "It must also carefully examine ways the options would impact its customers in terms of both money and electric reliability. In this case, Vectren has not evaluated all options or shown that it is proceeding in the most prudent manner."

Fine said he was concerned that Vectren failed to fully evaluate "all options for extending its coal-fired units' useful lives beyond 2023."

Indiana coal advocates recently asked the IURC to reject Vectren's plan to build a new gas plant at the site of its Brown plant, citing the lack of a "statewide analysis" to demonstrate need.

Alliance Resource Partners, Sunrise Coal, the Indiana Coal Council and the Evansville-Western Railway are challenging Vectren's plans.

--Bob Matyi,

--Edited by Richard Rubin,