Consumers Energy commits to close all coal plants by 2025
On Thursday, Consumers Energy made its boldest commitment to date: it will retire its remaining five coal plants by 2025, 15 years ahead of schedule.
Consumers and environmental groups said the move would immediately decrease local air pollution, improve lung and heart health, and be a small but important step toward reducing global climate change.
The announcement came ahead of the utility company filing its proposed integrated resource plan, which is a 15-year vision for power, grid reliably and energy efficiency. Once filed, the plan will head to the Michigan Public Service Commission for approval. The Commission is an independent government entity that makes sure utilities are remaining safe, effective, fair and efficient.
“For decades, Michigan has spent billions on imported coal, and its demise as Michigan’s main source of electricity is finally on the horizon,” said Charlotte Jameson, program director of energy for the Michigan Environmental Council. “This historic and critical announcement from Consumers Energy to shutter coal plants ahead of schedule will improve the health of Michigan residents and protect our Great Lakes from pollution."
Still, Jameson said, the commitment by Consumers could have been better for the environment, for people and for the company's bottom line. That's because Consumers will partly replace the energy it loses from the coal plants with methane rather than with clean renewables only.
Because of this, the Michigan Environmental Council and other statewide environmental leaders will legally intervene in the Commission's upcoming decision on Consumers' plan. It will mark a continuation of decades of similar intervention work.
“We are skeptical of the transition to using additional natural gas to fulfill our state’s energy needs," Jameson said. "We will be intervening in the case to put forward ways for Consumers Energy to more rapidly transition to fully carbon-free, clean energy, like wind and solar, energy efficiency, and battery storage.”
Before Consumers' decision, environmental, community and legislative leaders called on Michigan's largest utility company to take bold action with its plan to power Michigan homes and businesses, including retiring its J.H. Campbell coal plant near Holland by 2030 and ensuring a just transition for workers and impacted communities.
Other key components of Consumers' integrated resource plan include:
- Have 60% of energy come from renewables by 2040
- Reach carbon neutrality by 2040
- Become one of the first major coal-free utility companies
- Add 8,000 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power about 1.28 million homes.
- Create a stronger grid with modernization and battery storage
Consumers will officially file its integrated resource plan June 30.