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"Classic Seven" power plants to shut down April 15

The J.R. Whiting Generating Complex, a coal plant in Erie, MI.
Consumers Energy
The J.R. Whiting Generating Complex, a coal plant in Erie, MI.

Seven of Consumers Energy's oldest and smallest coal-burning power plants will shut down for good on April 15.

They're being shut down to comply with an order to reduce mercury emissions.

Spokesman Brian Wheeler says the shutdown is expected to be smooth.

"Power plants obviously do go on and offline at different times," says Wheeler.  "Sometimes plants get shut down for maintenance.  So the shutdown process  isn't that difficult, but once they're closed for sure by April 15th, they won't come back."

Most of the electricity will be replaced by a natural gas plant in Jackson that Consumers Energy bought earlier this year.

"This plant here in Jackson was not run regularly," says Wheeler, "and we're running it more often now because it has a bigger role as far as our production needs."

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy both say Michigan will need to build new power plants in the future.

That's because many other older coal-burning power plants are being closed throughout the Midwest, and there will be less electricity to share on the electric grid.

The Michigan Environmental Council, however, says there are ways to influence market demand so that new power plants are not needed.

Time-of-day pricing, for example, sets higher prices at times of peak demand.  That tends to lower overall demand. 

The group says utilities could be compensated for the loss of business, while reducing Michigan's overall carbon footprint.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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