September 18, 2023 - As Indiana relies less on coal-generated electricity, some lawmakers say they have concerns about the transition to more renewable forms of energy when it comes to affordability and reliability.
Since 2012, 29 coal plants have been retired throughout Indiana. Another 20 coal plants are expected to be retired by 2035. The Energy & Utilities Interim Study Committee discussed that transition Thursday, and emphasized reliability and affordability be top priorities for any renewable energy alternatives.
In the past decade, Indiana’s reliance on coal has dropped from roughly 76 percent to 47 percent, according to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
”We’re transitioning and the question becomes what do we transition to?” Douglas Gotham, director of Purdue University’s State Utility Forecasting Group, said.
According to the IURC, solar capacity in the state is also expected to increase from roughly 400 megawatts to 7,400 megawatts by 2025.
”I don’t know that there’s really an issue with it working as long as we got enough, other things that will produce electricity when the sun’s not shining,” Gotham said.
However, committee chairman and State Sen. Eric Koch says he questions if that increase in solar power is feasible.
”We have many counties that have passed moratoriums against solar and against utility-scale wind,” State Sen. Koch said.
According to the senator, coal has the advantage of 24/7 reliability—something solar, wind, and other non-thermal resources do not have.
”We can’t have a situation in Indiana where we have rolling blackouts because we don’t have reliability,” State Sen. Koch said.
Some current renewable energy projects are also stuck in the pipeline. The non-profit (known as MISO) in charge of operating much of the Midwest’s power grid says construction for 49 gigawatts worth of resources is facing a two-year delay with supply chain issues primarily to blame.
”It is particularly acute in the world of utilities and it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with,” State. Sen. Koch said.
MISO says it will file queue reform within the next 60 days to move those projects along as quickly as possible.