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CenterPoint Energy expects to go coal-free by 2027

An energy plant is pictured against a blue sky. A smokestack lets out white smoke.
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CenterPoint expects converting its Culley 3 coal unit and moving to mostly renewable energy will reduce the company's carbon emissions by about 95 percent and save customers almost $80 million in the next 20 years.

The Indiana utility CenterPoint Energy plans to be coal free by 2027. The company plans to convert its Culley 3 coal unit to natural gas and add 400 megawatts of renewables by the end of the decade.

Until now, Culley 3 was the only coal unit that CenterPoint hadn't set a retirement date.

CenterPoint expects the plan will reduce its carbon emissions by about 95 percent and save customers almost $80 million in the next 20 years.

Shane Bradford is the company’s vice president of operations. He said CenterPoint Indiana’s plan will help the larger CenterPoint corporation achieve its goal of net zero by 2035.

“So we wanted to look at what we could do to bring our generation resource to reduce our carbon footprint. The other reason is, we want to continue to provide reliable service to our customers but in a cleaner manner — because our customers are asking for those needs," Bradford said.

The utility also plans to add another 400 megawatts of wind energy by 2032. Wendy Bredhold is with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Indiana.

“In terms of the amount of renewable energy CenterPoint has planned, it's my understanding that it's one of the better plans in the region, not just in the state," she said.

Bredhold is referring to the region covered by the regional grid operator Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO).

Aside from converting Culley 3, CenterPoint also plans to build two natural gas peaker plants. Those are plants that run during times when energy demand is high. Bradford said construction is already underway and they should be in service by mid-2025.

Bredhold said the Sierra Club is still against adding new gas. But in some ways, the announcement represents a victory for the organization and the community.

"If we hadn't successfully defeated that 850 megawatt gas plant they proposed several years ago, they would be getting almost all of their energy from fossil fuels by the end of the decade. So I think that the fact that the community rose up and so many advocates spoke out against that gas plant is a big part of what we've achieved today in terms of the amount of renewable energy in that plan," she said.

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including this series on climate change and solutions.

Duke Energy is now the only investor-owned utility in the state that won’t be coal free by 2030. That’s the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said we have to stop burning coal to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Duke plans to retire its coal five years later.

This story has been updated.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele
Copyright 2023 IPB News.