The two coal-fired generators at NIPSCO's Bailly Generating Station in Burns Harbor were set to be shut down permanently Thursday night as part of the power company's plan to reduce reliance on coal.
NIPSCO Director of Communications Nick Meyer said Thursday that the generators were scheduled to be retired at midnight.
The Bailly plant, on 100 acres near the Port of Indiana, Arcelor Mittal Burns Harbor and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, dates to 1962. It became fully operational in 1968.
Current and former employees gathered Wednesday "to commemorate the fact that the facility has served more than 50 years, and the important role it played," Meyer said.
Bailly will continue to house equipment to ensure transmission of continuous voltage and a gas-fired "peaking unit" used during high-demand periods. But its main role as a coal plant is coming to an end.
Meyer cited several reasons for that, including coal's cost relative to the cost of natural gas, environmental policies and service reliability.
"All of those factors play an important role," he said.
The decision to end coal-fired generation at Bailly was part of NIPSCO's 2016 Integrated Resource Plan, which calls for a 50-percent reduction in the utility's coal fleet by 2023.
"Bailly was the first step in that plan," Meyer said. The second step of the 2016 plan is retirement of two coal-fired units at the Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield, where there are four total coal-fired generators. Michigan City also has one.
The environmental part of the decision-making has changed since the 2016 plan, with the administration of President Donald Trump exiting the Paris Accord on climate change, and beginning the process of repealing an Obama-era rule called the Clean Power Plan.
But full implementation of the plan would still lead to "carbon reductions that would exceed what was required in the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Accord," Meyer said.
The 2016 plan will be updated by a new one NIPSCO is developing this year. It will detail the utility's mix of energy sources for the next 20 years.
The new plan will "consider all options when determining a long-term plan that balances the needs of our customers and communities," NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris said recently in announcing a Request for Proposals that would detail potential sources that would meet electricity demand.
The results of that RFP, along with a series of stakeholder and public meetings, will inform creation of the new Integrated Resource Plan, to be finalized late this year.
NIPSCO currently supplies electricity generated by natural gas and coal and through hydroelectric, wind and customer-owned renewable energy systems.
"The portfolio of energy supply we have today looks very different from 10 years ago," Meyer said.
NIPSCO is currently demolishing the old Mitchell Generating Station along the lakeshore in Gary. It has been out of service since 2002.
The long-term future of Bailly is yet to be determined, Meyer said. He said the company is working with various stakeholders to consider potential uses for the site.
For information on NIPSCO's Integrated Resource Plan update, visit nipsco.com/irp.