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Duke Proposed Integrated Gasification Combined-Cycle Power Plant: Poor Energy Planning for Indiana

Executive Summary

On September 7, 2006, Duke Energy Indiana and Vectren filed a petition with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission requesting permission to build a two-turbine 630 megawatt (MW) Integrated Gasification Combined-Cycle (IGCC) power plant in Edwardsport , Indiana . Duke currently owns a power plant at this location which started operation in 1918 and that currently operates units built in 1944 and 1951. It consists of 3 coal-fired boilers and 1 oil boiler, is capable of producing 160 megawatts of electricity, and operates only about 30% of the time. The proposal is to demolish the currently operating plant and replace it with the proposed IGCC plant. The new plant operations would include pulverizing and gasifying coal, and using the resulting “syngas” as fuel to run the power plant. In the event that syngas is not used as the primary fuel source, the plant is also capable of using natural gas as a fuel. The IURC's decision will most likely be made within the next six months.

Citizens Action Coalition is opposing the construction of this power plant and, instead, urging the IURC to direct Vectren and Duke Energy to begin investing in cleaner, more economic energy efficiency and renewable power alternatives.

There are many reasons to reject Duke's proposal. Economically speaking, the IURC's decision in this matter will have a direct impact on all of the ratepayers in Vectren and Duke Energy's service territories, in terms of significant increases in electric bills. These ratepayers include citizens and businesses as well as cities and towns. The construction of the power plant will cost a minimum of $2.1 billion, which will have to be shouldered by ratepayers. Operating and maintenance costs will be at least $104 million annually.

In contrast, ramping up energy efficiency programs to meet Duke's projected demand for electricity will only cost $42 million per year, and will save ratepayers money. And, even if energy efficiency was not enough, the same amount of electricity can be generated by wind turbines placed in northern Indiana for the same construction cost, but for only $39 million per year in operations and maintenance costs. In other words, diversifying the energy mix is cheaper than building the plant and can also meet electric energy demand in Duke/PSI territory.

In terms of the environment, while Vectren and Duke Energy are presenting this power plant as “clean coal technology” with the ability to capture carbon dioxide and reduce global warming emissions, they are not proposing to actually build the plant with the technology necessary to carry out this aim. The plant will be built without carbon dioxide capture equipment, and it will be added later only when federal regulations governing carbon dioxide change, and then only if it is cheaper to do so than to pay for the carbon dioxide emissions. It is important to note that if carbon capture equipment is ever added to this power plant, it will increase the cost of the project by at least 37%, while decreasing the electricity output of the plant by at least 20%. Furthermore, carbon sequestration on the commercial scale necessary has never been demonstrated or accomplished. Even if carbon capture and sequestration were viable, which has yet to be proven, retrofitting the plant with such technology would increase electric bills even more and substantially reduce the efficiency of the plant.

Regarding the health of Hoosiers, Vectren and Duke Energy are also emphasizing that IGCC technology is cleaner in terms of emissions in nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, beryllium, mercury, and fluoride than traditional coal generation. However, the proposed power plant is much larger than what currently exists at Edwardsport, and will be operating more often, resulting in a 785% increase in c arbon dioxide emissions, a 1,480% increase in carbon monoxide emissions, a 297% increase in particulate matter emissions, a 678% increase in volatile organic compounds, and an alarming 14,555% increase in lead emissions. Of particular concern are the increases in lead, which is especially harmful to fetuses, infants, and young children, and is known to harm the intellectual development, behavior, size and hearing of infants, at low levels of exposure. The increases in particulate matter are also alarming because of the known health impacts. The EPA's own consultants estimate that 887 deaths, 1,491 heart attacks, 114 lung cancer deaths, 21,532 asthma attacks, 845 hospital admissions, 618 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 1,274 asthma ER visits occur annually due to particulate matter emissions from coal-burning power plants in Indiana (Clear the Air, 2004).

If this IGCC power plant is built in Edwardsport , Indiana , it will have an enormous negative impact on the finances, health, and well-being of citizens across Indiana . There are much cheaper alternatives that are also cleaner and will actually save ratepayers money, such as energy efficiency and renewable sources of electricity, that Vectren and Duke Energy have not fully explored nor exploited. Citizens Action Coalition is urging the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to reject Vectren and Duke's request and require them to take a least cost, common sense approach focused on efficiency and renewables.

Click here to download the full report in PDF format

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