NIPSCO to replace coal with 2.3 GW of solar, storage in latest RFP
The investor-owned utility is leading a rapid transition away from coal assets, but lobbying and advocacy efforts in the state are expected to continue attempting to protect aging coal infrastructure, despite the defeat of a moratorium on new electric generation during Indiana’s legislative session this April.
“The bigger underlying concern in our state is just, with an RFP of this size and a transition that’s this rapid … could lead to some pushback when it comes to what lawmakers or policymakers might consider,” Ben Inskeep, senior energy policy analyst at EQ Research, told Utility Dive.
Besides the moratorium on new generation, other policies discussed last legislative session “what’s going to happen with our coal resources and if there might be some attempt to bail out some of them or to provide a subsidy to … continue to operate [the plants] past their cost-effective lives,” he said.
Last year, NIPSCO filed an IRP to replace all its coal infrastructure by 2028 with more economic resources including solar, wind and natural gas ultimately projected to save customers $4 billion through 2037 and drawing strong stakeholder support.
“We did see some activity in this past legislative session, but at this point, our plan continues to move forward,” Meyer said.
Last year’s IRP showed projected prices for solar and wind ranging from $27/MWh to $40/MWh, less than half of the costs to operate NIPSCO’s existing coal fleet, which ranged from $57/MWh to $82/MWh.
The utility modeled hundreds of scenarios, including some requested by the Indiana Coal Council, which included more favorable prices for coal, higher prices for natural gas and no need for further investments in environmental compliance at two of NIPSCO’s largest units. The IRP still found a renewable energy path was about $900 million cheaper in the next two decades.
Despite this, coal advocates continue to say a favorable federal regulatory agenda would make coal plants more competitive. Scott Pruitt, the former head of the Environmental Protections Administration, registered as a lobbyist in Indiana this year on behalf of the parent company of Sunrise Coal, the second largest coal company in the state, drawing on his expertise of the Trump administration’s goals for rolling back environmental regulations that could benefit carbon-emitting plants.