CenterPoint seeks OK to convert Indiana power plant to gas

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A utility that provides electricity to a large portion of southwestern Indiana wants to convert a coal-fired power plant to natural gas.

CenterPoint is asking Indiana regulators to approve a $323 million plan to close the A.B. Brown coal units and install natural gas turbines that would generate 460 megawatts of power.

The utility, previously known as Vectren, said it will also seek approval to pass that project’s costs to customers through a rate increase.

CenterPoint said the project, located near the Ohio River, southwest of Evansville, would add about $23 a month to the bill of a customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

A consumer group, the Citizens Action Coalition, opposes CenterPoint’s proposal to raise rates to pay for the project. Kerwin Olson, the group’s director, said the increase would be a “huge burden to residents already paying the highest electric rates in the state.”

CenterPoint spokeswoman Natalie Hedde said the utility would request the rate increase in 2023 if state regulators approve the project.

If the plant conversion is approved, probably by mid-2022, CenterPoint would immediately start construction, and the new turbines could begin operating in 2024, Hedde said.