EDITORIAL: Loosen coal's grip, but gradually

2014-04-21T17:00:00Z 2014-04-21T18:31:16Z EDITORIAL: Loosen coal's grip, but gradually nwitimes.com
April 21, 2014 5:00 pm  • 

Kankakee Valley REMC CEO Dennis Weiss followed the standard line for Indiana utilities in seeking to protect coal-fired power plants, upon which the Indiana electrical grid leans heavily.

Coal accounts for about 93 percent of electricity generation in Indiana.

There have been steps taken toward other energy sources, everything from erecting wind farms — clusters of those giant wind turbines that dot the landscape — to solar collectors to natural gas-fired peaker plants that generate electricity to meet periods of high demand.

It seems unlikely Indiana will see new coal-fired power plants built. The concern about future U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, as well as about climate change in general, is high.

But for now, coal remains the cheapest way to generate electricity in Indiana — even with hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by NIPSCO and additional megadollars spent by Kankakee Valley REMC's power source to retrofit power plants to capture some of the noxious emissions.

Indiana also sits on a rich reserve of hundreds of years of coal, given current consumption rates.

Weiss, speaking to the utility's customers at the co-op's annual meeting recently, spoke of concerns the EPA "is trying to establish rules that will drive up costs of electricity to our homes, businesses and communities."

"Many refer to it as a war on coal," Weiss said.

Coal's grip on Indiana has to loosen because of climate change and other environmental concerns. But relax that grip gradually to ease the impact on consumers.

Indiana is looking at energy conservation and related issues this year. That should be a high priority.

The federal government should look for ways to increase the reliability and lower the price of alternatives to coal.

Other technologies have to be developed more to provide steady, reliable, low-cost power so Hoosiers — and the economy — don't suffer a knockout punch.

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