Consumers Energy to end use of coal

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Consumers Energy said it is eliminating its use of coal for electricity and close five coal-fired power units by 2040. In 2016, the company closed the J.R. Whiting Generating Plant in Luna Pier along with seven other coal generators.

Consumers Energy said Wednesday it will stop using coal to generate electricity by 2040.

The announcement comes as the utility company files a plan this week with the Michigan Public Service Commission outlining how it will meet that goal. The company said it will increase its use of renewable resources, especially solar, and begin closing its remaining five coal-fired units in 2023.

"We know as an energy company we have an impact on the planet," said Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers and its parent, CMS Energy, "and we intend our impact to be positive and, in fact, to leave that better than we found it. Michigan can be seen as a leader in clean energy and a leader nationally in clean and affordable energy."

Consumers' announcement comes as inexpensive natural gas and renewable electricity has brought serious competition to coal-fired power plants. DTE Energy Co. said in May 2017 that it would close its five coal plants in Michigan by 2040.

The Trump administration earlier this month, however, proposed a plan to stop the shutdown of coal and nuclear power plants, citing concerns over the national power grid's resiliency to weather disasters and cyberattacks. During his campaign, the president promised he would save coal jobs in the United States.

As a part of its plan, Consumers would close two coal-fired generating units at Karn Generating Complex in Hampton Township in 2023. The remaining two units at that facility would close in 2031, along with two units at the J.H. Campbell Plant in West Olive. A third unit at Campbell would serve consumers until 2040. Their retirement follows the closure of seven coal units in 2016.

Three hundred people work at Karn. Campbell employs 250 people at its first two units and another 60 people at its third.

Consumers would increase renewable energy from 11 percent to 37 percent by 2030 and 43 percent by 2040. It would add 5,000 megawatt of solar energy throughout the 2020s in addition to wind and battery storage. The company also plans by 2040 to decrease carbon emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels.

The plan expects by 2040 a 22 percent decrease in electricity demand by improving and updating demand response, energy efficiency and the power grid.

Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest energy provider, serves 6.7 million residents in the Lower Peninsula.