The president of Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) says she is seeing a "real revolution" in the energy industry, and wants to make sure the utility is part of the movement. Violet Sistovaris says that’s much of the motivation behind the utility’s "Your Energy, Your Future" effort.
The goal is simple, but ambitious: cut coal dependency, which is currently about 65 percent, down to essentially zero over the next 10 years. Instead, NIPSCO will increase its pursuit of largely renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind energy, along with battery storage technology. She says the plan "envisions a brighter future that delivers the energy our customers need while reducing emissions and focusing on the long-term strength of our local economy."
The utility says it will accelerate the anticipated retirement of its five remaining coal-fired units. The plan is to shut down four units at the R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield no later than 2023 and another at the Michigan City Generating station by 2028. NIPSCO will continue to operate its natural gas-fired Sugar Creek Generating Station in Terre Haute and its hydroelectric dams along the Tippecanoe River.
While Sistovaris says the environment will benefit from the changes – NIPSCO anticipates reducing carbon emissions by more than 90 percent by 2028 – she knows the plan will impact the utility’s workers and customers as well.
"It’s too early to really talk through and really know the details of the impact to our workforce," she said during an interview on Inside INdiana Business With Gerry Dick, "but what I can say is we have a commitment to work with our employees, to work with local and regional and statewide educational and training facilities, so that we can really minimize the impact to our workforce."
As for customers, Sistorvaris says, while she knows "every dollar matters," she believes a proposed rate increase equating to about $11 per month is necessary to make the plan a reality.
"In the short term…we’re seeing some shift in the demand of our industrials that we needed to think about and take into consideration," she says. "And then, I think about the long term, and that is that we’re paving the way, providing the pathway to get to this new future of renewables. And so, for those two reasons, a rate review and an increase were really important for us in the here and now."
The utility says the planned increase will fund efforts including upgrading electric infrastructure and environmental improvements while allowing it to minimize outages and provide better response when outages do occur.
Sistovaris says "Your Energy, Your Future" is also about becoming an even stronger economic partner for the state. She says she likes what she sees from the state and Governor Eric Holcomb, and believes NIPSCO is in prime position to continue to work with the state and organizations in northern Indiana to remain “quite active” in the economic development space.