NIPSCO to shut down MC station

September 20, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – The city’s lakefront could have a totally different look in about 10 years with plans announced by NIPSCO on Wednesday to shut down its coal-fired generating station in Michigan City.

Mayor Ron Meer said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the news, and is already envisioning the future of the shoreline.

“This is pretty important news for Michigan City, and I see it as a positive,” the mayor said Wednesday night.

“For future generations of residents, that whole lakefront could be opened up. Can you imagine the entire shore from Trail Creek to the National Park without any building or industrial structures?”

Northern Indiana Public Service Company said as part of its “future electric supply planning process, analysis shows the most viable option for customers would include moving up the retirement of a majority of its remaining coal-fired generation in the next five years and all coal within the next 10 years.”

That would include the Michigan City plant being shut down by 2028, and the four coal-fired units at the R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield in five years.

“Likely replacement options point toward lower-cost renewable energy resources such as wind, solar and battery storage technology,” NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said in a statement.

NIPSCO was uncertain about future plans for the site.

“We expect there to be considerable interest in the future development and use of the Michigan City site from within the community and beyond,” Meyer said. “And while no decisions have been made, we would intend to work with the community on future plans.”

City officials said it could be a great opportunity.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to reclaim and revitalized the waterfront for residents to enjoy,” said Clarence Hulse, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City. “Ten years gives us the opportunity to plan and envision endless possibilities for Michigan City.”

Meer said he was “taken back” by the news, which he received shortly before NIPSCO’s announcement, calling it “interesting and intriguing.”

He said not only would it open the lakefront, but would quickly improve property values on the West Side.

While the plan is not yet finalized, NIPSCO outlined the strategy at a meeting with customers, consumer representatives, environmental organizations and other stakeholders in its Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process.

“This creates a vision for the future that is better for our customers and it’s consistent with our goal to transition to the best cost, cleanest electric supply mix available while maintaining reliability, diversity and flexibility for technology and market changes,” NIPSCO president Violet Sistovaris said.

The closures of the five units will retire about “1,800 megawatts of coal-fired generation and significantly accelerate carbon reductions across the NIPSCO footprint,” Meyer said. It will also “result in further reductions, both in timing and magnitude, beyond previously announced targets.”

“Technology and market changes continue to transform the energy industry, opening more competitive options and it’s the primary driver of the changes being considered for our system,” Sistovaris said. “Retiring our aging coal fleet sooner will cost substantially less compared to our original plans for extending retirements over a longer duration.”

Meer said he sees a major transition for NIPSCO.

“NIPSCO has always been a community partner, and there will be a lot to be discussed over the next 10 years,” he said, adding utility officials did not mention specific plans for the site, but he foresees a lot of meetings over the next decade.

And he likes the long-range outlook.

“This is still 10 years away, and then you could have 2-3 years of demolition work. I’ve already started thinking about the residents of Michigan City and their children and their grandchildren, and what they will see when they look at the lakefront without a large industrial presence.

“It’s good news.”

Meyer said it’s too soon to say how the move will affect NIPSCO employees.

“From an employee standpoint, it’s still early and our focus will be on ensuring reliability for customers and limiting the impact on our employees through any future transition.”

Meer said there will still be jobs.

“You can’t just eliminate that much electric generation. There has to be something to replace and there have to be new jobs.”

Operation of NIPSCO’s existing natural gas-fired Sugar Creek Generating Station in West Terre Haute, and the Norway and Oakdale Hydroelectric Dams along the Tippecanoe River will continue.

NIPSCO “has been – and will continue – working with stakeholders and regulators to solicit further input to aid in formulating its final plan, which the company plans to submit to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission by Nov. 1,” Meyer said.

More information about electric supply strategies and the IRP process can be found at NIPSCO.com/IRP.

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