Enviro groups want more data on Thetford project alternatives

Three environmental groups asked the Michigan Public Service Commission on Oct. 24 to order Consumers Energy to turn over data about power supply bids that would be a possible alternative to the utility’s own gas-fired, 700-MW Thetford project.

The utility is before the commission seeking three approvals related to the Thetford project, which would involve new combined-cycle capacity at an existing site in southeast Michigan.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan Environmental Council and Sierra Club are intervenors in the case. On Sept. 30, Consumers issued a request for proposals (RFP) for new power supply that could present alternatives to the Thetford project with bids under that RFP due by Oct. 15.

“It is our understanding that Consumers Energy does not intend to provide the responses for the 2013 RFP until sometime after the filing of Staff and Intervenor testimony,” the groups said in their Oct. 24 motion to compel. “The 2013 RFP responses are highly relevant to this case because one or more of them may represent alternative means of meeting Consumers Energy’s projected capacity need with a lower net present value of revenue requirements (PVRR) than the Thetford natural gas combined cycle generating plant for which Consumers seeks a Certificate of Necessity in this case.”

Consumers has testified that it had three offers from the 2012 RFP that were – according to Consumers – economically comparable to Thetford on price but ruled out for other reasons. More recently, Consumers acquired information suggesting that one or more of these bidders would be likely to offer a lower price if Consumers put out a new RFP, which Consumers subsequently did on Sept. 30, the environmental groups noted.

“If the bidders who offered a competitive price in 2012 subsequently offered a lower price in 2013, then one or more of the bids will have a lower net PVRR than Thetford,” they added. “That state of affairs would be outcome-determinative of this case under the statutory standards outlined above. Therefore, the 2013 RFP responses could not be more relevant to this case.”

In a discovery response, a utility official said that if one of the bids is more economically favorable than Thetford, then Consumers will let the parties to the case know. “But of course, this is an adversarial proceeding with full rights of participation,” the groups argued. “Parties have a right to the underlying information so that we can do our own analysis.”

If the responses by Consumers Energy are not provided prior to the Oct. 28 deadline for PSC staff and intervenor testimony, the environmental groups requested a modification to the schedule to provide an opportunity for supplemental testimony to be filed after receipt of the 2013 RFP responses.

In the Sept. 30 RFP, Consumers said it will consider proposals to acquire existing simple cycle or combined cycle natural gas-fueled generating facilities. The location of such facilities must be in that portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan that is serviced by the Midcontinent ISO.

Consumers needs this new gas-fired capacity in part to replace seven older, smaller coal units that it plans to shut, and likely retire, in 2016 to meet clean air mandates.

LS Power looks to uprate, convert a gas-fired plant in Consumers’ territory

It isn’t clear if this would be an alternative for Consumers, but Renaissance Power LLC is nearing an air permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that would allow it to uprate its simple-cycle gas plant into a combined-cycle facility. This is one of several gas-fired plants LS Power bought in 2009 from Dynegy. At the time it gave the plant’s capacity as 652 MW, with the LS Power website currently putting the capacity at 644 MW.

MDEQ’s Air Quality Division was taking comment until Oct. 17 on a draft permit for the conversion project. The MDEQ documents don’t give pre- and post-conversion MW ratings. The GenerationHub database shows that the four CTs at the plant each have a 170 MW nameplate rating (165 MW summer net) and that the plant is connected into the Consumers Energy transmission system.

The Renaissance facility is an existing plant located in Carson City, Montcalm County, Mich. Renaissance currently operates four simple cycle natural gas-fired Siemens 501 FD2 combustion turbine generators (CTG), a diesel-fired emergency generator, a diesel-fired firewater pump engine, and a natural gas-fired fuel heater, at this facility.

The proposed modification and conversion includes the addition of four heat recovery steam generators (HRSG) equipped with duct burners (DB) for supplemental firing and two steam turbine generators (STG), resulting in two power blocks, each in a “two-by-one” (2×1) configuration consisting of two CTG/HRSG and one STG. The CTG and duct burners will be permitted to operate on natural gas only.

Montcalm County is in central Michigan, southwest of the college town of Mt. Pleasant. Thetford Township, the location of the Thetford plant, is close to Flint, Mich., some distance away from Montcalm County but in the same general region.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.