A consumer advocate group is urging the state to deny Vectren’s proposal to build a $780 million natural gas plant. The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says Vectren needs to explore all its options.
Instead of shuttering it’s A.B. Brown coal units completely, the OUCC suggests Vectren could convert them to natural gas — or keep one coal unit and build a smaller plant.
“Keep in mind that what’s being proposed here is a very expensive project. It’s a 30 to 40 year commitment for Vectren’s customers — and so it just makes sense to have a good, solid evaluation,” says OUCC spokesperson Anthony Swinger.
Vectren communications vice president Chase Kelley says the company looked into those options — including converting the two units — but didn’t think it was a good idea.
“They would rarely operate because they would be incredibly small and inefficient and that would require us to buy power on the market at prices we could not predict,” she says.
The OUCC claims that even after Vectren serves its customers during peak hours, it still has plenty of electricity — and that Vectren customers are demanding less.
But Kelley says the company's numbers can be misleading over the past five years. She says Vectren cancelled contracts with some municipalities and lost one of its largest customers — SABIC (formerly GE Plastic).
"Those are two one-time events that in our mind would not repeat," says Kelley.
Multiple parties have opposed the new gas plant including environmentalists and Indiana’s coal industry. Vectren has until Sept. 10 to file a rebuttal.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.