Critics: Duke trying to shift more Indiana plant cost

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A consumer group maintains Duke Energy is trying skirt an agreement that caps how much of cost overruns electric customers must pay on its new $3.5 billion coal-gasification plant in southwestern Indiana.

That claim follows Duke confirming the Edwardsport plant was shut down for repairs starting six days after the company declared it operational in early June, The Indianapolis Star reported. Duke officials attributed the shutdown to damaged fans that help vaporize wastewater at the plant, which converts coal to synthetic natural gas and burns it to generate electricity. Without the fans, Duke can't operate the two gasifiers.

One returned to operation on July 9, and the plant has been generating power intermittently since then, Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere said Thursday.

"That's not unusual with any new plant, but it is more common with advanced technology on this scale," she said. "We expect to deal with technical issues early in operations."

The plant's opponents say the problems indicate Duke prematurely declared the project "in-service," which would allow Duke to recover repair costs from its customers despite a settlement the company reached with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in December. That agreement capped the amount Duke could collect from ratepayers for construction at about $2.6 billion, with Duke having to cover about $900 million itself.

The plant's original 2007 cost estimate was $1.9 billion.

"This has nothing to do with whether the plant is operational and everything to do with Duke Energy bilking ratepayers for costs they should not be able to recover," said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Indianapolis-based Citizens Action Coalition.

Protogere said Duke disputes any accusation that it is trying to take advantage of a loophole in the settlement.

"It all depends on the repair," she said. "Some of it would be considered construction under the hard cap. Others would be considered operation and maintenance costs."

Consumer groups argue that the Edwardsport project was misguided — pointing to a $631 million natural gas-powered plant proposed by Indianapolis Power & Light Co. that would have produced more electricity.

"There are no protections in place for ratepayers from a white elephant," Olson said. "At what point does the commission finally do their job and cut off the tap?"

Danielle McGrath, a state utility commission spokeswoman, said the agency could not comment because the Duke proceedings are ongoing.

Duke provides electricity to about 790,000 homes and businesses in Indiana. The company has said ratepayers can expect a 14 percent to 16 percent increase in their monthly bills for construction of the Edwardsport plant. Nine percentage points of that increase has already occurred, with the rest to be phased in through 2015.

Protogere said Duke expects electricity production to ramp up to full capacity over the next 15 months. She declined to say how much electricity the plant about 40 miles south of Terre Haute has been putting on the grid. Doing so could impact the energy trading market, she said.

"We don't confirm whether a unit is online," she said. "We aren't in the habit of telling people that information."

According to a monthly compliance report filed with state regulators, the plant ran at less than 10-percent capacity in June.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Angela IS the best RD

  2. We are a nation of speed. All of our younger lives are filled with deadlines, quotas and bottom lines. We start to ease out of the pressured rat-race when we finally see "retirement." The most enjoyable travel on the planet is passenger rail service. Indy to Chicago does not beat Megabus or Southwest Airlines in speed. Passenger rail however has the best seating, mammoth legroon, seat backs that recline to more than 45 degrees and employers that really want you to return as a customer. Indiana municipalities need to maintain subsidies to support this transportation mode. Losing it is loss for all of us.

  3. Good day! I just want to testify how i got my loan from Mr. Eric Lefkofsky after i applied several times from various loan lenders who claimed to also testify right in this forum,i thought the testimonies where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan. Until a friend of mine introduce me to this popular Mr. Eric Lefkofsky who promised to help me and indeed he did as he promised without any form of delay. I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr. Eric lefkofsky who indeed helped me with the loan and changed my belief. I promised to share this testimony after I got my loan. I don't know if you are in any way in need of a genuine and urgent loan,free feel to contact Mr. Eric Lefkofsky via their email{grouponfunding@hotmail.com}

  4. Its a THUG issue. Bleecker Street and NYX are thug bars. They attract thugs of all races. Places that attract thugs need to be kicked out of Broad Ripple. Ain't nobody got time for that!

  5. Hello everyone, My name is Marian Gareth, I am from the Texas, United State, am here to testify of how i got my loan from Mr Andre Frank {frankloancompany@yahoo.com} after i applied Two times from various loan lenders who claimed to be lenders right in this forum,i thought their lending where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan.Until a friend of mine introduce me to Mr Andre Frank the C.E.O of Andre Frank Loan Company who promised to help me with a loan of my desire and he really did as he promised without any form of delay, I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr Andre Frank, who really help me with my loan and changed my lief for better. I don't know if you are in need of an urgent loan, free feel to contact Mr Andre Frank on his email{ Frankloancompany@yahoo.com} for help