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    CenterPoint proposal would raise energy bills


    October 7, 2021 - Mark Wilson

     

      CenterPoint has said it is expecting to start construction immediately after the project is approved, which will most likely be in mid-2022. The turbines would begin operating in 2024.

      EVANSVILLE – Area residents who want to comment on CenterPoint Energy's proposal to replace its coal-fueled A.B. Brown power plant with natural gas turbines have two opportunities to be heard this fall.

      The utility, formerly Vectren, is planning to retire the 760-megawatt power plant in Posey County near Evansville in October 2023 and replace it with two natural gas-fired turbines at an estimated cost of $323 million.

      That cost would ultimately be recovered from customers through electric rates. CenterPoint has estimated it could add up $23 a month to customer electric bills.

      First, however, CenterPoint needs approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to build it.

      The commission will have a public hearing in Evansville on Oct. 13 to hear comments in person about CenterPoint's plan. People can also send written comments to the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), which is the state agency which represents consumer interests before the utility commission. It will consider those comments in writing its own testimony to the commission but they must be received by Oct. 13.

      CenterPoint's most recent long-range plan for energy generation is to replace its coal power generation with 700-1,000 megawatts of solar power and 300 megawatts of wind generation backed up by the natural gas turbines.

      Together, the natural gas turbines will generate 460 megawatts of power.

      Environmental and consumer advocacy groups, such as the Sierra Club and Citizens Action Coalition, have filed opposition to the project because it continues to rely, in part, on adding new fossil fuels instead of seeking to transition to 100 percent renewable power generation.

      CenterPoint has said it is expecting to start construction immediately after the project is approved, which will most likely be in mid-2022. The turbines would begin operating in 2024.

      The company would not ask to increase rates until 2023, said Alyssia Oshodi, a Centerpoint spokeswoman. That is when it is next due for the commission to review its rates.

      However, in the same request as the natural gas turbines, CenterPoint also is asking approval to build two new "small ponds," primarily for wastewater – one at the A.B. Brown plant in Posey County and one at its F.B. Culley plant in Warrick County, at a cost of $19 million, plus a $12 million loading facility on the Ohio River for transporting dry fly ash for reuse instead of disposal.

      Oshodi said the utility will seek to recover those costs in a separate rate case at a later time.

      Mark Wilson covers education and environment at the Courier & Press.

      Making your voice heard

      If you go to the IURC hearing:

      6 p.m., Oct. 13

      Old National Events Plaza, 715 Locust St., in Downtown Evansville.

      Sending comments to the OUCC:

      Comments should be marked "IURC Cause No. 45564" or CenterPoint Energy. They can be submitted at the OUCC's website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm or sent by email to uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov.

      They may also be mailed to: Public Comments, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor; 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South Indianapolis, IN 46204.

      CenterPoint has said it is expecting to start construction immediately after the project is approved, which will most likely be in mid-2022. The turbines would begin operating in 2024.

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