Will Evansville and Vectren ever embrace renewable energy?

June 3, 1015 – by Jean Webb, Valley Watch board member

What’s holding Evansville back from taking advantage of the newer, cleaner, cheaper electric generating technologies? I’d answer Vectren, our state government, and ratepayer indifference.

imagesEvansville’s electricity is generated by 96% coal. Coal may be cheap, but the controls to clean up the air and water from its wastes are very expensive. Other cities are now able to thrive with affordable clean energy. Why not us?

Want an example? According to a January 2014 rate survey, the Portland, OR residential ratepayer paid $63.34 for a 500kWh bill; whereas the Evansville ratepayer paid $83.77 for that same 500kWh bill. Portland ratepayers can also chose to power their houses with renewable energy, a mix of 98% wind, 1% geothermal, and 1% solar. The extra cost for the average household to go with renewables is approximately $7.00 a month. I would love that option! I could be 100% renewable in Portland and still pay less than what I pay Vectren!

Vectren doeshave a "power purchase agreement with the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in Benton County, IN to supply a few megawatts of energy to the Vectren System. They do charge a premium to customers who desire to be 100% renewable.That is on top of what is already the highest electric rates in the midwest. Photo © 2015 BlairPhotoEVV

Vectren does have a “power purchase agreement” with the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in White and Benton Counties and Benton County Wind Farm in Benton County, IN to supply 80 megawatts of energy to the Vectren System. . Photo © 2015 BlairPhotoEVV

Vectren’s stance is that they don’t need new capacity, so they aren’t adding renewables. And, since they are still entitled to recovery on the coal plants and all their related pollution controls, the ratepayers would have to pay for both the old and new generating units. Ouch! Why do we have to keep paying for what we don’t want?

That’s where our State government comes into play. Utility lobbyists managed to hi-jack our state into passing Senate Bill 251 in April 2011. That Bill allowed utilities to keep upgrading the old coal plants and keep charging ratepayers for the upgrades without any rate hearing to allow customers to comment. That Bill is why we are still in debt for old technology that prevents us from moving ahead into the future. It’s the ratepayer equivalent of massive student loans that can never be discharged in bankruptcy.

So, Vectren is sitting smug, knowing they will be paid for a product we don’t want. And, they helplessly say – sorry, renewables are just too expensive.

Let’s let Vectren know LOUDLY that their lobbyists may be clever, but we want clean renewables NOW. We want them at an affordable price.   We want them to STOP spending on old technologies and passing that cost onto us.

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5 Responses to Will Evansville and Vectren ever embrace renewable energy?

  1. Helen Templeton says:

    It does seem to me that Vectren is a monopoly in this area and does not want renewable energy in Evansville or environs. They own too much coal and have put their marbles in the coal industry which leaves us holding the bag (debt). We will be paying way too much for a good many years. Wake up folks and demand what is right!

    • John Blair says:

      A little over a year ago, Vectren divested itself of its coal holdings so that conflict of interest is now moot.

  2. Carol Oglesby says:

    Whether we own it or not, Vectren is generating our electricity with 96% coal and we want our electricity by renewable at a fair price.

  3. Carol Oglesby says:

    Revision please, John:
    I think what Helen is trying to say is that whether Vectren owns the coal or not, they are generating our electricity with 96% coal and we want our electricity generated by renewables at a fair price.

    • John Blair says:

      I was only replying to her assertion that they owned too much coal. And now they own no coal as far as I know.

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