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E&E News: Duke coal plants costing Indiana customers millions — groups

Posted by Jeffrey Tomich on Aug 5, 2020

E&E News covered recent IURC filings by parties, including AEE, concerned that Duke Energy charges Indiana customers millions more to operate coal plants than renewable alternatives, quoting AEE's Dylan Reed. Read excerpts below and the entire E&E News piece here. (sub. req.) 

Duke Energy Corp. is charging Indiana customers millions of dollars more than it should to dispatch Indiana coal plants and bypassing cheaper, cleaner alternatives, according to environmental groups. The groups, including the Citizens Action Coalition, the Sierra Club and Advanced Energy Economy, submitted testimony from analysts and economists last week in a closely watched case before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission involving Duke and how it runs its coal plants as part of the broader Midwest power grid...

The review by the commission is among several cases where state regulators are scrutinizing the utility practice of committing coal units to operate in energy markets versus letting economics dictate when they run. Regulators in Minnesota and Missouri are also looking at the impact of how utilities operate their coal fleets. The case comes at an interesting time in Indiana, where the Legislature is in the midst of a two-year study on the impact of transitioning away from coal to cleaner energy. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill aimed at slowing the transition...

Advocates said a decision by regulators to disallow fuel costs related to the uneconomical operation of those coal plants could likewise help nudge Duke to speed up the transition to cleaner energy.

Dylan Reed of Advanced Energy Economy said the operation of uneconomical coal generation is a "perverse incentive" that both costs utility customers and crowds out development of cheaper, cleaner energy resources. "There's hundreds of millions of savings on the table by investing in advanced energy resources," he said...

Although the commission's review of Duke and its coal fleet is narrow in scope, the broader implications of a decision could be significant. Estimates of how much consumers stand to save varies. Robert Stoddard, managing director of Berkeley Research Group LLC, a consultancy hired by the Washington-based Advanced Energy Economy, estimates Duke operated coal plants at a loss of $40 million over six months...

Read the entire E&E News piece here. (sub. req.) 

Topics: United In The News