Consumers Energy says that seven coal unit retirements part of a broader plan

Consumers Energy‘s plans to retire its seven oldest coal-fired generating units by April 2016 – 32% of its fleet – mean that only one other energy provider in the country is retiring a larger percentage of its coal plants.

“These plants, which we call our ‘Classic Seven,’ have provided reliable, affordable energy for Michigan residents for decades, but it doesn’t make economic sense to spend more to keep them running,” said David Mengebier, Consumers Energy’s senior vice president for governmental and public affairs, in a May 11 announcement. “Now, we’re planning responsibly for a sustainable future for our state, making sure residents and businesses have the energy they need, whenever they need it.”

Consumers Energy announced the release of its third Accountability Report, a snapshot of the company’s work to meet Michigan’s energy needs now and for the future. The report highlights Consumers Energy’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. It also notes the company’s work to help make the transition for the Classic Seven plants, for the hundreds of employees who work there and for their communities. Consumers Energy is working with governmental, business and economic development organizations on redevelopment strategies.

“When we talk about sustainability, we refer to environmental stewardship . It’s also social and economic issues such as workforce development and community engagement, making sure that our state is prepared for the future,” Mengebier said.

Other highlights from the Accountability Report:

  • Consumers Energy has significantly reduced emissions from its generating plants over the last 15 years, helping Michigan’s air to be the cleanest it has been in a generation. Particulate matter has decreased 91% from 1998 to 2014, as have nitrous oxide (78%), sulfur dioxide (53%), mercury (28%) and carbon (13%).
  • The company is setting a new target to reduce water intensity usage at its power plants – 20% by 2020 compared to 2012.
  • The company set a new target to avoid 1 million cubic yards of landfill space through 2019.
  • Consumers Energy spent $114 million last year to upgrade and modernize its electric system, helping the grid to withstand severe weather and reduce the number of outages.
  • Workplace injuries involving employees have dropped from 355 in 2008 to 150 last year, reflecting a “safety-first” approach to make sure all employees go home safely.
  • The report emphasizes the need for a Michigan-first energy plan that creates a climate for Consumers Energy and other major energy providers to develop plans to meet the state’s energy needs.

“We are prepared to provide energy safely, affordably, reliably and sustainably, even as seven of our coal plants are retired next year,” Mengebier said. “It will be important for Michigan to support a fully regulated electric system that provides certainty for us to build the next generation of clean power plants, carry out cost-saving energy efficiency strategies that help our customers, and develop cost-effective renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power.”

The company’s coal units are:

  • JH Campbell Units 1 and 2, 611 MW, West Olive, MI
  • JH Campbell Unit 3, 751 MW (93% owned share), West Olive, MI
  • DE Karn Units 1 and 2, 510 MW, Essexville, MI
  • BC Cobb Units 4 and 5, 307 MW, Muskegon, MI
  • JR Whiting Units 1-3, 317 MW, Erie, MI
  • JC Weadock Units 7 and 8, 309 MW, Essexville, MI

The seven units to be shut in April 2016, after one-year compliance extensions under the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards expire, are: Cobb Units 4 and 5, Weadock Units 7 and 8, and Whiting Units 1, 2 and 3.

Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

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.