Consumers Energy plans to retire its seven oldest coal-fired generating plants by April 2016 – 32 percent of its fleet – meaning that only one other energy provider in the country is retiring a larger percentage of its coal plants.
"These plants, which we call our 'Classic Seven,' have provided reliable, affordable energy for Michigan residents for decades, but it doesn't make economic sense to spend more to keep them running," said David Mengebier, Consumers Energy's senior vice president for governmental and public affairs. "Now, we're planning responsibly for a sustainable future for our state, making sure residents and businesses have the energy they need, whenever they need it."
Consumers Energy made the announcement as it released its third Accountability Report, a snapshot of the company's work to meet Michigan's energy needs now and for the future.
The report – available online – highlights Consumers Energy's commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. It also notes the company's work to help make the transition for the Classic Seven plants, for the hundreds of employees who work there and for their communities. Consumers Energy is working with governmental, business and economic development organizations on redevelopment strategies.
"When we talk about sustainability, we refer to environmental stewardship . It's also social and economic issues such as workforce development and community engagement, making sure that our state is prepared for the future," Mengebier said.
Other highlights from the Accountability Report:
- Consumers Energy has significantly reduced emissions from its generating plants over the last 15 years, helping Michigan's air to be the cleanest it has been in a generation. Particulate matter has decreased 91 percent from 1998 to 2014, as have nitrous oxide (78 percent), sulfur dioxide (53 percent), mercury (28 percent) and carbon (13 percent).
- The company is setting a new target to reduce water intensity usage at its power plants – and 20 percent by 2020 compared to 2012.
- The company also set a new target to avoid 1 million cubic yards of landfill space – the equivalent of five football fields stacked from goal line to goal line, 100 feet deep -- through 2019.
- Consumers Energy spent $114 million last year to upgrade and modernize its electric system, helping the grid to withstand severe weather and reduce the number of outages.
- Workplace injuries involving employees have dropped from 355 in 2008 to 150 last year, reflecting a "safety-first" approach to make sure all employees go home safely.
The report also emphasizes the need for a Michigan-first energy plan that creates a climate for Consumers Energy and other major energy providers to develop plans to meet the state's energy needs.
"We are prepared to provide energy safely, affordably, reliably and sustainably, even as seven of our coal plants are retired next year," Mengebier said. "It will be important for Michigan to support a fully regulated electric system that provides certainty for us to build the next generation of clean power plants, carry out cost-saving energy efficiency strategies that help our customers, and develop cost-effective renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power."
Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.