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IPL Plans To Close Part Of Coal Plant, Go Half Renewables By 2039

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Business, Environment, Science
The Petersburg coal plant off of Highway 57. (Rebecca Thiele/IPB News)
The Petersburg coal plant off of Highway 57. (Rebecca Thiele/IPB News)

Indianapolis Power & Light plans to close two of its four coal units at its Petersburg plant by 2023. But environmentalists say IPL needs to move away from coal more quickly.

Members of the Indianapolis City-County Council and the Sierra Club have urged IPL to go coal free and fully retire its Petersburg plant by 2028.

Wendy Bredhold is with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Indiana. She calls the plant one of the worst polluters in the country.

“They’re not listening to what’s being demanded by the public, by public officials, and you know what’s just needed in order to prevent climate catastrophe,” Bredhold says.

Councillor-elect John Barth says closing two of its units is a step forward.

“However, the impacts of climate change are real and happening at an accelerated pace. So we need to be very consistent as solid policy makers and pushing for a faster timeline,” he says.

The proposal to close two of the coal units is part of the company’s 20-year plan, which it hopes to file with the state soon. In the next two decades, IPL expects renewable energy and battery storage will make up more than half of its fleet — the rest would be natural gas and coal.

IPL Resource Planning director Patrick Maguire says, for now, the company feels it needs to keep some coal online to help it better react to changes in the market and changes in state and federal laws.

“We will revisit this every three years. We just weren’t at a point where we were ready to draw a line in the sand,” Maguire says.

IPL officials say closing the two Petersburg units could lead to the loss of more than 100 jobs. The company is looking into ways those employees could stay on with IPL.

Brick Briscoe, who lives just a few miles from the Petersburg plant, says he’s conflicted about the idea of the plant retiring one day. Coal has caused a lot of pollution in his community, but it’s also provided jobs.

“We’d hate to see [the plant] disappear because I think our entire economy — in Petersburg in particular — is built on this place,” he says.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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.