Government, Higher Education, and Sustainability

Utility files plan for zero coal use by 2040

Consumers Energy is first electric utility to file Integrated Resource Plan, kicking off 10-month process.

July 20, 2018
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One of the largest energy companies in Michigan is working through a 10-month legal process with the Michigan Public Service Commission to make the switch to renewable energy over the next 20 years.

Consumers Energy filed an Integrated Resource Plan last month to switch to zero coal use by 2040, making it the first electric utility in the state to file its IRP under state law, according to the MPSC.

The IRP also intends to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by replacing coal with up to 5,000 megawatts of solar energy throughout the 2020s, along with wind and battery storage.

Consumers proposed retiring two aging coal-fired units at the Karn-Weadock Generating Complex near Bay City in Hampton Township in 2023. Consumers President and CEO Patti Pope said the company would work “actively” to support the plant’s workers and the township through the transition.

“We’re grateful for the power the Karn coal units have provided for Michigan over the decades and proud of our co-workers who’ve operated and maintained them so faithfully,” Pope said.

Three remaining coal-fired units at the Campbell Generating Complex near Holland will continue to operate until the end of their design lives which, according to Consumers, would be 2031 for Campbell 1 and 2 and 2040 for Campbell 3.

The company projected the change would increase renewable energy usage from 11 percent today to 37 percent by 2037 and 43 percent by 2040.

According to the MPSC, the IRP planning period must be for a minimum of 20 years, with specific reporting of five-year, 10-year and 20-year projections.

Consumers officials spent more than a year-and-a-half developing the IRP by gathering input from customers and shareholders.

“This was a product of a comprehensive legislative reform,” MPSC Commissioner Norman Saari said. “It talks about where future supplies are going to be coming from. It talks about the process whereby renewable resources would potentially be used.”

Saari also said this is the first case of its kind the MPSC has handled.

With a 10-month process between MPSC and Consumers to come, MPSC officials felt it necessary to first hold a public hearing earlier in mid-July at Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center in Grand Rapids.

Saari added public comments would be included on the meeting record but aren’t subject to cross-examination. The initial public hearing was intended as more of an information-gathering session, as MPSC officials cannot engage in a debate outside of the hearing process.

Individuals still can attend the legal hearings at the MPSC headquarters in Lansing. The legal hearing schedule has not yet been established.

With an approximately 1,500-page IRP, Saari said Consumers has a thorough plan for the future.

“We expect it’s going to be very comprehensive,” Saari said. “The commission, for decision-making, we don’t piecemeal it. We will listen to the full case, read all of the legal pleadings, sit through cross-examination — how do you (Consumers) plan on keeping up to date with this over the next 300 days? — and there will be final legal arguments that Consumers and all the interveners will make.”

Saari said MPSC commissioners will make the ultimate decision on IRP approval after the 10-month period, and there still will be a 60-day review period afterward.

IRPs are required under Section 6t of Public Act 341 of 2016. The section requires Michigan electric companies whose rates are regulated by the MPSC to submit an IRP to the MPSC for review and approval.

It also requires the MPSC to determine modeling parameters and assumptions for utilities to use when filing IRPs, and to issue an order establishing filing requirements, including application forms and instructions, and electric utility filing deadlines for IRPs.

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