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Vectren Wants A Natural Gas Plant, Utility Watchdog Says It Doesn't Need It

Vectren's Evansville headquarters. (Lori SR/Flickr)

Vectren is hoping to get preliminary approval for a new natural gas plant at its station near Evansville. It's part of a $940 million proposal that also includes improvements to the company's Cully 3 coal unit, among other things.

The natural gas plant would replace Vectren’s three coal units that will retire in 2023. The company says it also hopes to invest in some renewable energy.

Vectren communications director Natalie Hedde says Vectren is proposing a 50 megawatt solar farm in Spencer County that’s twice the size of the one at the Indianapolis International Airport.

“Vectren is heavily coal-fired and we think the diversification of our portfolio is the right thing to do,” says Hedde.

But Kerwin Olson, executive director of utility watchdog the Citizens Action Coalition, says Vectren doesn't need the plant and instead could satisfy its customers' needs while it investing in more renewable sources.

“In the wake of the moral crisis that is climate change, it’s unthinkable to us that we would continue to invest in dirty fossil fuels,” he says.

The CAC also claims Vectren is only building the plant to add value to the company before its bought by CenterPoint. Hedde says Vectren can’t comment on the terms of the acquisition, but that that was not the motivation behind building the plant.

Though the proposal is only in its early stages right now, Vectren expects customers will pay at least $5 to $8 more per month. Any rate changes as a result of the proposed natural gas plant itself would not show up on customer bills until 2023.

There will be a hearing on the proposal on July 11 at 6 p.m. at the University of Southern Indiana.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story called Vectren's petition as a proposal for a "rate increase." That was incorrect. According to the IURC, this is preliminary petition and no rate increases have yet been proposed.

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.

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