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Consumers Energy Says It Will Close Coal Plants, Have 40 Percent Renewables By 2040

Wind turbines stand tall above a farm field
courtesy of Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy says it will stop using coal by 2040 and get 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources. The company’s remaining five coal plants employ about 500 people. It shuttered seven of its facilities two years ago.

Consumers CEO Patti Poppe says more renewables is what the company’s customers want — and now they’re cheaper than ever.

“In the past people believed that we had to choose between affordable and clean energy, we don’t subscribe to that sucker's choice," said Poppe. "Our commitment is to achieve our goal and keep our prices affordable.”

Though Consumers officials say it's too early to tell precisely what affect this might have on ratepayers. 

Poppe says the company still plans to operate its existing natural gas plants through 2040, but doesn't intend to build any new natural gas facilities. 

Consumers also talked about some goals for the next five years — like saving one billion gallons of water, cutting its landfill waste by 35 percent, and to “enhance, restore, or protect” 5,000 acres of land in the state.

Consumers’ announcement comes one week after a new ballot initiative went on-line called Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan. It wants the state to use 30 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Consumers says its goals are similar, but it may not be able to meet all the deadlines in the group’s proposal.

"We want to make sure we have flexibility in the path to achieving that, that we can do it in the most affordable way," said Poppe. "So some of the interim targets that are proposed as part of that ballot proposal may lock us into the wrong technologies at the wrong time."

John Freeman is the campaign director for Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan. He says he’s happy to see Consumers is taking this step, but wonders if the company will deliver on its promises.

“In other words we will find out how serious Consumers is when they submit their Integrated Resource Plan,” said Freeman.

Consumers' Integrated Resource Plan is the official paperwork that the company has to give to the Michigan Public Service Commission in June. Poppe says the company will have more details on how they will go about closing its coal plants at that time.