MERRILLVILLE - One of Indiana's largest energy providers has detailed a long-term strategy to significantly cut back on its use of coal. Merrillville-based NIPSCO has filed an Integrated Resource Plan with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, which proposes retiring coal-fired units at Bailly Generating Station in Chesterton and two coal-fired units at R.M. Schahfer Generating Station near Wheatfield.

The shutdowns could take place in Porter County in 2018 and Jasper County by the end of 2023. The units in question represent 50 percent of the utility's coal power generation. NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris says "customer needs and the energy industry continue to evolve, and it’s vital that we plan for tomorrow, today. We've identified a preferred path that provides customer and environmental benefits, reflective of our goal to focus on providing affordable, clean energy while maintaining flexibility for future technology and market changes."

The utility adds "the goal is to provide ongoing work opportunities for existing employees by proactively working with union leadership and affected employees."

NIPSCO says the type of energy that will replace the coal-fired equipment has yet to be determined, though it calls a combined-cycle gas turbine "a likely candidate" to eventually fill the void. If the planned retirements move forward, they would still need approval from Carmel-based Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc. The company says it will rely on existing power generation through 2019, but may have a "narrow window" when purchased power will be used.

The utility says its generation portfolio has continued to diversify in recent years, with 72 percent of generation currently coming from coal, down from 90 percent in 2010.

You can connect to more details about the plan by clicking here.

NIPSCO's parent company, NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) has also released its third quarter earnings report, which showed an income from continuing operations of $23.7 million, compared to $14.8 million during the same period last year. You can connect to the full earnings report by clicking here.