CenterPoint Should Explore Alternative To High Rate Gas Turbines, Says OUCC

EVANSVILLE, Ind. –Hundreds of letters have been sent to the Indiana Utilities Consumer Advisor’s Office opposing a proposed CenterPoint project that would result in rate increases for its customers.

CenterPoint is seeking approval from the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission to build two natural gas combustion turbines at an estimated cost of $ 323 million to replace its AB Brown coal-fired power plant.

The cost would ultimately be recouped in the consumer’s electricity rates and the utility estimates that it could add $ 23 per month to customers’ electricity bills.

Some of the letters spanned pages, laying out environmental impact issues and questioning CenterPoint’s own plan for renewable energy by 2030.

Following: Cost of voice of customers and climate concerns during the CenterPoint Energy rate hike hearing

Others were handwritten on notebook paper and told personal stories of how a fare increase would negatively impact their families.

And some didn’t do more than a few sentences.

“No one can afford that $ 23 increase per gas bill. Don’t let it happen.”

Addressing the request to build the turbines directly, OUCC Principal Economist Peter Boerger recommended that the project be rejected.

“While it is important to ensure that utilities have adequate resources to maintain reliability, higher-than-necessary rates can unnecessarily affect the affordability of these rates for Indiana consumers and the competitiveness of Indiana businesses. the state, ”he said.

The smokestacks of CenterPoint Energy’s AB Brown Power Plant can be seen in the distance behind its coal ash pool in Posey County, near Evansville.

Instead, Boerger recommended that CenterPoint explore converting AB Brown to use natural gas.

“Now is not the time to make major investments in natural gas infrastructure that will take 30 years to fully recover,” he said.

The recommendation is echoed in other testimony from the OUCC, including that of utilities analyst Anthony Alvarez.

Alvarez said CenterPoint decided not to select a plan to extend the life of its current assets, but rather to remove and replace high-performance generators with expensive turbines.

CenterPoint already has the highest residential rates of Indiana’s five investor-owned utilities and has the smallest customer base with 140,000 taxpayers.

“As a smaller electric utility whose subscribers are already paying high electricity rates, (CenterPoint) should consider the reduced ability of its subscribers to bear the added burden of paying for important items such as electricity. ‘acquisition of a new generation,’ said Alvarez.

Following: Here’s Why Your CenterPoint Natural Gas Bill Will Double This Winter, And How To Get Help

Additionally, in the same application as the natural gas turbines, CenterPoint applied for approval to build two new “small ponds” – one at AB Brown in Posey County and one at its FB Culley plant in Warrick County. , at a cost of $ 19. million dollars, plus a $ 12 million loading facility on the Ohio River to transport dry fly ash for reuse instead of disposal.

Testimony from Cynthia Armstrong, Senior Utilities Analyst, recommended denial of these Basin Compliance projects and approval of the Dry Ash Compliance Project.

Armstrong testified that if the IURC approves the pond projects, it recommends that CenterPoint shareholders be responsible for 50% of the costs.

“This recognizes that even though its obligations (coal combustion residues) were outstanding many years ago, CenterPoint has unreasonably delayed decisions,” she said, “and has now submitted estimates of speculative costs which could result in higher costs for consumers. “

Sarah Loesch can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas and questions.

This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Evansville Utility CenterPoint rate increase not supported by OUCC

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