First natural gas prices dropped to levels not seen in a decade and now they have stabilized there, raising questions for the future of the U.S. energy industry.
The low prices and stability are a boon for consumers, with NIPSCO recently forecasting customer natural gas bills will change little from last year if usage stays level.
But for the industry, big questions are being asked about how fast the shift to natural gas will take place for electric generation, trucks and automobiles and other possible users, said Karl Stanley, NIPSCO vice president of commercial operations.
Already some U.S. coal-fired electric generation plants have been retro-fitted to use cleaner natural gas. That shift is raising questions about how best to transport the large volume of gas needed by such power plants, particularly in the East.
"The big issue in our industry is how much coal generation will be retired," Stanley said.
NIPSCO four years ago bought its first gas-fired electric generation plant, which now compliments its three coal-fired generation plants.