Michigan’s Consumers Energy Plans 5 GW Of Solar, No More Coal

Consumers Energy, a provider of electric and natural gas service to 6.7 million Michigan residents, has announced a new plan to meet the state’e energy needs with significantly more renewables, increased energy efficiency and demand management programs, and zero coal.

This week, the company – a subsidiary of CMS Energy – is filing with the Michigan Public Service Commission an integrated resource plan (IRP) to increase renewable energy from 11% today to 37% by 2030 and 43% by 2040. This would help the company achieve its clean energy goal, announced earlier this year, to reduce carbon emissions 80% and eliminate the use of coal to generate electricity by 2040. The proposed strategy also includes retiring two aging coal-fired units at the Karn Generating Complex near Bay City in 2023.

Under the IRP, demand response, energy efficiency and grid modernization tools would take on more significant roles. These virtual power plants will help customers save money on their energy bills and reduce energy demand 22% by 2040, according to the company’s estimates. Consumers Energy also would add 5 GW of solar energy throughout the 2020s, along with wind power and battery storage.

“Our vision considers people, the planet and the prosperity of our state and the communities we serve. This IRP will help guide key decisions in the coming years to make us a cleaner, leaner company for the Great Lakes State,” comments Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy and CMS Energy. “This is a pivotal moment in our company’s long, proud history – and this plan charts a course for us all to embrace the opportunities and meet the challenges of a new era.”

Over the last 18 months, Consumers Energy developed the IRP by gathering input from a group of customers and stakeholders, including through a series of public forums. The company then modeled future scenarios using a variety of assumptions about factors such as market prices, energy demand and levels of clean energy resources, including demand response, energy efficiency, wind and solar.

Karn units 1 and 2, located in Hampton Township near Bay City, came online in 1959 and 1961, respectively, and are capable of generating 515 MW of electricity. The retirements of Karn 1 and 2 continues a move away from coal that began in April 2016 with the retirement of the company’s “Classic Seven” units, located at the former Whiting, Cobb and Weadock sites.

“We’re grateful for the power the Karn coal units have provided for Michigan over the decades and proud of our co-workers who’ve operated and maintained them so faithfully. The company will be working actively to care for our co-workers through this transition,” Poppe notes. “We plan to support Hampton Township and the Bay region as they re-imagine the local economic landscape after these units are retired.”

“This is great news for the people of Michigan,” says Regina Strong, Michigan director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Consumers Energy is taking a step in the right direction by setting a retirement date for the Karn coal-fired power plant and apparently planning to replace that plant with clean energy. It is way past time for this antiquated technology and dirty fossil fuel to go.

“We’ve heard Patti Poppe talk about being forward-thinking, and this announcement represents a positive move towards a clean energy future,” she continues. “The job is not done. We will continue to organize Consumers’ customers to ensure that workers and the community around the Karn plant are taken care of. We will also continue to organize until all Consumers customers can be free of fossil fuels with the retirement of the Campbell coal-fired power plant on Lake Michigan.”

According to the Sierra Club, under Michigan law, Consumers is required to file a proposed 15-year energy plan with the state by Friday. The Sierra Club and Earthjustice intend to carefully evaluate that filing and to actively engage in the PSC proceeding regarding the proposed plan. The group notes that Consumers will still need to determine what to do with its JH Campbell coal plant in West Olive.

The Karn retirement accounts for the 270th coal plant retired or announced to be retired nationwide since the Beyond Coal Campaign began in 2010, the Sierra Club notes.

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