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Published in Energy
Consumers Energy’s J.H. Campbell coal plant will be retired in 2025. Consumers Energy’s J.H. Campbell coal plant will be retired in 2025. COURTESY PHOTO

Regulators approve Consumers Energy’s ‘historic’ plan to shutter West Mich. coal plant in 2025, speed up energy storage

BY Thursday, June 23, 2022 04:47pm

The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved Consumers Energy’s latest long-term energy plan that calls for eliminating its coal-fired power in 2025 while also speeding up the deployment of energy storage.

Under the 20-year plan approved in a 115-page MPSC order today, Consumers plans to buy a large natural gas plant in Covert Township next year that state regulators say will help bolster the utility’s electric reliability as it closes the J.H. Campbell Plant in Port Sheldon in 2025, 15 years earlier than originally planned.

“This is a historic moment in Michigan’s clean energy transformation journey,” Consumers President and CEO Garrick Rochow said in a statement. “The Clean Energy Plan is a sea change that positions our company as a national leader and empowers us to deliver reliable energy while protecting the planet for decades to come.”

Consumers’ “integrated resource plan” — which gained support from several clean energy and environmental advocacy groups — calls for adding 8,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power by 2040 while also speeding up the deployment of energy storage. The Jackson-based utility aims to deploy 75 MW of storage by 2027 and 550 MW by 2040, according to the plan. 

Battery storage will be a key technology in the coming years as the utility brings on more intermittent renewable energy sources.

“The settlement agreement with Consumers Energy is a significant step forward in Michigan’s fight against the climate crisis. It ensures that the utility retires its last coal plant, the J.H. Campbell Plant, no later than 2025 while abandoning efforts to acquire gas plants owned by its parent company, CMS Energy,” Derrell Slaughter, Michigan clean energy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “Consumers Energy will add significant amounts of clean energy resources like 8,000 megawatts of solar by 2040 and battery storage to its generation mix. These significant wins, fought for by the community, are a step in the right direction to get Michigan on track to meet its carbon reduction goals and improve air quality.”

The MPSC’s approval came after an extensive negotiation process involving the utility, regulatory staff, business groups, environmental advocates and the state Attorney General’s Office.

That advocacy included thousands of comments submitted to state regulators, according to a coalition of clean energy groups. Signatories to an earlier settlement agreement included the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council and the Michigan Electric Transmission Co.

“The fact that we had thousands of comments to drop off at the Consumers Energy office made me very hopeful that we would push the utility to come up with a better plan for renewable energy,” Sergio Cira-Reyes, climate justice catalyst at the Grand Rapids-based Urban Core Collective, said in a statement. “We know that pollution from fossil fuels and extreme weather from the climate crisis hits Black, brown and low-income communities disproportionately and we are glad to see our communities speak out to protect themselves.”

Consumers’ plan also accelerates its energy efficiency programs — a key component of the utility’s clean energy toolbox — and commits $5 million this year to a fund for income-based energy bill assistance.

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