Coal Plant Cancellation: Consumers Energy Abandons Aging and Contested Coal Units in Michigan

LANSING, MICHIGAN (December 2, 2011) – A decision by Consumer Energy in Michigan to cancel a controversial 830 megawatt coal plant planned for Bay City and the mothballing of seven other aging coal units, some of which began service during  the Eisenhower Administration, was welcomed by energy advocacy and environmental groups today.

“Governor Snyder can no longer ignore the fact that Michigan’s future is not with coal,”  Sierra Club’s Tiffany Hartung said, reacting to the news today that Consumers Energy is closing coal plants in favor of clean energy alternatives.   “The real question is whether Michigan will be getting the clean energy jobs or some other state or country.  Because of the administration’s support for coal, we’ve wasted more than a year and allowed other states and countries to get ahead of us.  We should be moving boldly ahead with strong clean energy policies.” 

Consumers Energy plans to close seven coal facilities in Muskegon, the Bay City area and Luna Pier, south of Monroe.  With plans for new wind farms in Mason and Tuscola counties, Consumers expects to be able to meet its forecasted energy needs without those seven coal plants plus a proposed new one near Bay City that was cancelled by Consumers today. The company cited lower electricity demand and cheap natural gas as major factors in the decision.

“There is consensus brewing here---Consumers Energy has come to the same conclusion as 158 other companies, that coal just doesn’t make economic sense,” said Shannon Fisk of the Midwest Office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The $3.5 plus billion that would have gone towards a dirty plant can have a much better impact in Michigan going towards energy efficiency and renewable energy resources that will create jobs, save ratepayer money, and benefit public health.”

Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action said the governor should immediately begin working on a comprehensive economic development plan focused on expanding clean energy jobs in Michigan. 

“Every day we delay means we fall further behind other states and countries,” said Roper.  “Michigan can do better, but only if Lansing politicians either get out of the way or stand with us and decide to start looking toward the future. It’s great to see Consumers Energy embracing clean energy as a better deal for its customers than coal. The plants they are closing are old and their pollution has been damaging people’s health.”

The groups also called on Consumers to develop transition plans for communities where coal plants are being closed to provide training and other support for workers.

The coal plant decisions come as Consumers recently announced it was lowering costs to its 1.8 million customers for renewable energy charges, a projected $54 million savings.

The Lone Tree Council, a Bay City area citizens group that has led the local fight against the new plant, said residents are relieved that Consumers has apparently taken this final step in abandoning the plant project.

“This is great news for local residents who would have had to endure the added pollution that would have come with this dirty coal plant,” said Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council President.   “We know that for our Great Lakes, our health and our communities this is the best possible outcome.”

According to a 2009 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan can meet its energy needs through a combination of wind power, biomass, and other renewable energy sources coupled with aggressive energy efficiency programs. Among the NRDC findings:

  • Energy efficiency program alone could save Michigan $3 billion in electricity costs over the next 20 years.
  • Michigan’s previous energy plan, written in 2007, is out of date, with unrealistic projections of future electrical demand, limited implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy, and reliance on outdated 20th century coal technologies.
  • Clean renewable energy is less expensive, cleaner, faster, more economically robust, and creates more jobs in Michigan than a 20th century plan based on new but obsolete large power plants driven by fossil fuels.