Consumers Energy to end Michigan’s coal use by 2025, but critics are wary of plans to purchase existing gas-fired power plants


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Dive brief:

  • Consumers Energy on Wednesday announced a plan to end its use of coal production by 2025, 15 years ahead of the current utility schedule. The utility is also shutting down peak units burning gas and fuel oil.
  • If approved by the Michigan Civil Service Commission, Consumers would shut down Campbell Coal 1 and 2 units in 2025, six years ahead of current plans. Campbell 3 would also be closed in 2025, 15 years ahead of current plans. The units combine for 1,440 MW, according to the utility.
  • By 2040, Consumers plans to meet 90% of demand with clean energy resources. The remaining 10% would be natural gas, generated in part by existing power plants that the utility now offers to buy.

Dive overview:

Conservationists applauded consumer action to dump coal and add clean resources, but were skeptical of plans to continue relying on natural gas.

Charlotte Jameson, program director for legislative affairs, drinking water and energy at the Michigan Environmental Council (GUY), called the consumer announcement “historic and critical,” but added that “we are skeptical about the transition to using additional natural gas to meet our state’s energy needs.”

Jameson said MEC and a coalition of groups would step in to suggest ways for Consumers Energy “to move more quickly to clean, carbon-free energy.”

“In the initial review, we are encouraged by Consumers Energy’s plans to phase out coal by 2025,” said John Delurey, senior regional director in the Midwest for Vote Solar, which is part of the coalition that will intervene. in the proceedings, in a press release. “However, the seemingly unnecessary purchase of existing gas plants is of concern.”

According to the utility’s announcement, the plan “creates price stability and, by using natural gas as a fuel source to generate baseload electricity, will save customers approximately $ 650 million through to 2040 “.

In September, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D, signed an executive order committing the state of going cacarbon neutral by 2050. Delurey said that achieving this goal requires “greater investment in clean energy, including careful consideration of the benefits of increased distributed generation.”

A summary of Consumers’ plan shows that by 2040, the utility will meet demand with 63% renewable energy, 15% customer efficiency programs, 12% energy storage and 10% natural gas . Today, it supplies nearly 60% of fossil fuels, notably from the Campbell coal power plant and the peak Karn power plant which burns gas and fuel oil.

Consumers plan to file the full clean energy plan with the PSC on June 30, according to a spokesperson.

As part of Consumers’ plan, Karn Units 3 and 4 would be phased out in 2023, around eight years ahead of their expected lifespan. The units can generate more than 1,100 MW combined, the utility said.

The utility is “committed to a just transition away from coal as a fuel source for electricity”, Brandon Hofmeister, senior vice president of government, regulatory and public affairs, said in a statement.

Hofmeister said Consumers helped workers find new roles in the company after the coal retreats in 2016 and “we plan to follow the same philosophy to help those affected by the pensions offered by Campbell and Karn.”

The replacement of the withdrawn resources will include the construction of nearly 8,000 MW of solar power, the utility said.

The plan also includes the purchase of four existing gas-fired power plants in Michigan: the Covert Generating Station in Van Buren County; Dearborn Industrial Generation in Wayne County; the Kalamazoo River Power Plant in Kalamazoo County; and the Livingston Generating Station in Otsego County. Federal and state regulatory approvals will be required for the purchases, Consumers said.

Consumers also plan to build a “smarter grid”, according to his plan.

“Energy efficiency, demand response and emerging technologies such as grid modernization and battery storage will help us reduce peak customer demand,” the plan says. Consumer energy waste reduction programs have saved customers nearly $ 4 billion since 2009, according to the utility.

Ultimately, Consumers expects its plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 63 million tonnes and prevent over 3 billion cubic meters of coal ash waste over the course of its lifetime. plan.

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