Consumers Energy Shuttering a Third of Its Coal Fleet

Michigan utility Consumers Energy formally announced on May 11 that it was closing seven of its oldest coal-fired units, which together represent 32% of its coal capacity.

The units, representing about 950 MW of total generation, will be shut down by April 2016. Consumers—the state’s largest utility—blamed impending federal air quality regulations in its 2015 Accountability Report released the same day. It had agreed last year as part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to retire the plants, but Monday’s announcement made it official.

David Mengebier, Consumers Energy’s senior vice president for governmental and public affairs, said the seven plants “have provided reliable, affordable energy for Michigan residents for decades, but it doesn’t make economic sense to spend more to keep them running.”

The seven units, all in Michigan, are at B.C. Cobb in Muskegon (two units, 320 MW), D.E. Karn-J.C Weadock in Essexville (two units, 310 MW), and J.R. Whiting in Erie (three units, 328 MW). The closure will leave Consumers with five coal-fired units still operating: three at the 1,450-MW J.H. Campbell plant in Port Sheldon and two (511 MW total) at Karn-Weadock. Those plants are receiving emissions control upgrades to comply with the EPA settlement.

The closure, Consumers said, will create a generation shortfall in Michigan and highlights the need for reform of the state’s hybrid energy market. Among other changes, Consumers is advocating for a return to a fully regulated market.

“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,” Mengebier said.

Consumers serves 6.6 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).

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