Indiana Utility Trading Coal for Solar
Throughout the conversations around climate change, companies have been slow to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. One company in Indiana, though, is now making waves as it switches out coal for solar. Though there have been conflicting opinions on this decision, renewable energy is a crucial part of global change. It starts on a company-wide scale.
In Southern Indiana, Vectren dominates the energy industry. Throughout past decades, too, coal has been a primary source for power and electricity in the state. Now, with the global focus on the climate crisis, sustainable solutions are necessary.
In June, Vectren announced plans to contribute to these sustainable solutions. Moving away from coal usage and toward renewable energy in the next few years is the foundation of the company's changes.
According to Vectren's Integrated Resource Plans, the company aims for immediate switches in the coming years. By 2023, the company plans to get rid of 730 MW of coal in favor of renewables. Instead, solar panels up to 1,000 MW will operate with wind as the primary source of energy.
Aet the moment, the company is running on 78% coal. By 2025, though, company leaders hope to reduce this number down to 12%. Doing so may save customers up to a total of $320 million over the next two decades.
Additionally, with the switch to renewables, Vectren's greenhouse gas emissions will decrease by 75% by 2035.
With Indiana having run on coal for so long, the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy is receiving polarizing reactions.
Despite the environmental and economic benefits of solar and wind power, policymakers are still hesitant. Coal is cheap, which governments and energy producers aren't quick to let go of. The debate ultimately becomes helping the environment in contrast with lower fossil fuel prices.
Vectren introduced an almost billion-dollar plan for retiring coal production in 2018. The local Indiana government has been consistently opposed to transitioning from coal, though. In 2019, policymakers proposed an amendment that would make moving away from coal harder. This opposition is still present with Vectren's current plans.
However, environmentalists have praised the move. Acting against climate change in any form is a step in the right direction. They hope this transition will inspire more states and industries to make the switch from fossil fuels.
Vectren's plans come about two years after North Indiana Public Service Co. announced a similar plan for Northern Indiana. Getting the state's southern half on board is the natural next move.
Signs of Progress
The right transition could mitigate conflict. It will most likely require compromising on different levels, but it's necessary to bring about sustainable change.
A central aspect of this change is demographic interests. For instance, millennials largely support the transition to renewable energies. As millennials become the largest demographic in the workforce, these sustainable interests will become the norm.
Still, there are concerns regarding the workforce about job loss and energy decreases during the switch. However, with the gradual shutdown of Vectren's plants, jobs should transfer to the new form of energy production. Additionally, with the efficiency of solar and wind, energy fluctuations should not be an issue.
With the potential savings for customers and the beneficial impacts for the environment, Vectren's switch is the right decision. In the future, environmentalists hope it will inspire more progress across other locations and bring the United States to its full renewable potential.
Due to the conflicting reception around Vectren's decision, a conversation has started — which is the first step in bringing about change. This dialogue must keep going to influence other companies and states. When words lead to action, residents, the economy and the climate will ultimately benefit.
Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.