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Consumers Energy to shut down all coal-burning power plants by 2025

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy says it will retire all of its coal-burning power plants by the year 2025, years ahead of an earlier schedule.

Environmental groups say it's a surprising and highly positive step, but there's still more the utility can do.  

Margrethe Kearney is an analyst with the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

She said the announcement is great news. Coal burning power plants are more expensive to operate than renewable sources of energy, and they spew a lot of harmful chemicals into the air.

On the other hand, Consumers Energy says it will replace the coal with the purchase of five natural gas power plants.

"They're doing kind of a coal-for-gas swap, where they shut down the coal, but they're really just moving to a different fossil fuel," says Kearney.

Natural gas is also a fossil fuel, although it emits about half as many greenhouse gases as coal. Natural gas production can also result in methane leaks, and methane is another potent greenhouse gas.

Consumers Energy says, if approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission, its updated plan would speed closure of three coal-fired units at the Campbell generating complex near Holland. The units would retire in 2025.

The utility's two plants in Essexville in Bay County, which run on natural gas and fuel oil, would be shut down in 2023.

Consumers Energy also plans to build solar power plants capable of generating 8,000 megawatts by the year 2040, an increase of 2,000 megawatts from its original plan.

Editor's note: Consumers Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

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.