Consumers Energy proposes to end coal use by 2025

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Consumers Energy proposed on Wednesday to stop using coal as a fuel source for electricity by 2025 and instead purchase existing natural gas power plants to provide reliable energy during the transition.

The proposal is part of a 20-year plan from the subsidiary of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. that requires regulatory approval. It would end the use of coal 15 years ahead of schedule and make the company one of the first to go coal-free. The overall plan is expected to save customers $650 million through 2040.

Consumers Energy wants to retire all of its coal-fired generating stations by 2025.

"We are proud to lead Michigan's clean energy transformation and be one of the first utilities in the country to end coal use," Consumers Energy CEO Garrick Rochow said in a statement. "We are committed to being a force of change and good stewards of our environment, producing reliable, affordable energy for our customers while caring for our communities during this transition."

If approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission, the updated plan from Michigan's largest energy provider would speed the closure of three coal-fired units at the Campbell generating complex near Holland. Campbell 1 and 2, collectively capable of producing more than 600 megawatts of electricity, would be retired in 2025 — roughly six years sooner than scheduled. Campbell 3, capable of generating 840 MW, would also be retired in 2025 — roughly 15 years sooner.

The updated proposal also calls for moving up the closure of Karn 3 and 4, units that run on natural gas and fuel oil and can generate more than 1,100 MW to meet peak demand, to 2023 — about eight years sooner than their design lives.

Altogether, the coal units employ 510 employees.

"Consumers Energy is committed to a just transition away from coal as a fuel source for electricity," Brandon Hofmeister, senior vice president for governmental, regulatory and public affairs, said in a statement. "We supported employees and communities impacted by our 2016 coal retirements by finding new roles for workers who wanted to stay, fulfilling our environmental responsibilities at the sites and helping local leaders pursue new economic possibilities. We plan to follow the same philosophy to help those affected by the proposed Campbell and Karn retirements."

The natural gas plants Consumers Energy has identified to acquire represent roughly an equivalent generation. The natural gas plants are Covert Generating Station in Van Buren County and Dearborn Industrial Generation in Wayne County. Additionally, Kalamazoo River Generating Station in Kalamazoo County and Livingston Generating Station in Otsego County are smaller and would be used primarily to meet peak demand. The proposed purchases require state and federal regulatory approvals.

Consumers Energy's currently owns natural gas-fired power plants in Zeeland and Jackson.

The operations and maintenance of natural gas plants is about $90 million cheaper than all of Consumers Energy's coal plants. Additional savings come from the increased use of demand management tools such as energy waste reduction programs. The company this year implemented a 50% higher rate during peak afternoon hours for the summer.

The 20-year plan also includes the addition of 8,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2040 so that renewable energy represents 63% of Consumers Energy's mix.

This is a developing story. Check back at for updates.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble