There’s no question about it. Duke Energy’s Edwardsport coal gasification plant is a financial boondoggle and a complete and utter technological failure.
Yes, Citizens Action Coalition and its partners, Sierra Club, Save the Valley, and Valley Watch, signed off recently on a settlement. But this isn’t over by a long shot.
We’ve wrestled with the largest electric utility in the country and in our State, and we came out with ratepayer savings, caps on the power plant’s costs, elimination of more obsolete coal-fired power, more solar investment, and benefits for low-income customers.
It’s a good thing that we played a role in accomplishing these things for Duke ratepayers because the General Assembly, by and large, doesn’t care about ratepayers. Indeed, the plant was made possible only by your State legislators passing bills to heavily subsidize the construction of the plant on the backs of Duke ratepayers and Indiana taxpayers – offering up the people of Indiana as financial cannon fodder for a science project doomed for failure. The cost overruns were inevitable but they wouldn’t listen – as usual. Another example of energy policy by golf outing.
We aggressively contested the initial approval of the plant. We argued first that Duke didn’t need the power. But even assuming they did, Duke should start with increasing investments in energy efficiency and fill in the gaps with low-cost Indiana wind. When the costs of the plant began escalating in the late 2000s, we recommended that Duke should change course and instead immediately convert the plant into a natural-gas plant. We voiced loud opposition to the $2.6 billion in construction costs agreed to in the 2012 settlement.
We took our opposition as far as we could, but the saga isn’t over. When the cost caps expire after two years, we can continue to challenge the costs of the plant before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, if need be. It will never run as promised, and operating and maintenance costs will skyrocket. It’s the proverbial money pit. And we will continue to track the costs of the plant and its actual performance – neither of which has been anywhere close to what was promised to legislators, regulators, and the public.
Duke ratepayers, please ask your State legislators and the Governor where they stand on the continued money flow from your wallets for this boondoggle. They seem very concerned about the impacts of energy efficiency and rooftop solar (which actually reduce bills for ratepayers and increase competition) on utility company bottom lines but they say and do nothing about a power plant that hasn’t met expectations and continues to cost their constituents.
It’s been a long, hard battle against incredible odds. CAC and our partners made the right move in settling at this juncture. If the Commission approves the settlement, short-term protections for Duke ratepayers will be in place and we preserve our ability to contest costs in the future. Step by step, we are making it more difficult for the Statehouse oligarchy to continue to look the other way.
These are the issues of immediate importance we are working on right now.