Thursday, May 27, 2010

Massive coal plant plan pulled off the table, and why it's not a win for those of us who opposed it

Consumers Energy Co. announced this morning an indefinite delay in pursuing its massive proposed coal power plant near Bay City: Consumers cited lack of electricity demand and the availability of cheap natural gas as reasons for the delay. They called it a “purely economic decision.”

The decision tracks with recent reports from the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC). Last week, the PSC concluded that a proposed coal plant in Rogers City was not necessary to meet electricity needs, and would have cost customers an additional $77 each month. Last fall, a PSC staff analysis concluded there was no need for new electricity generating capacity until at least 2020.

The delay provides a golden opportunity for Michigan to meet its future energy needs with, primarily, energy efficiency programming that is cheaper and cleaner than building a new baseload plant that will saddle customers with debt and the cost of imported coal for decades to come.

Someone asked me if this wasn’t a huge “victory” for environmental groups that opposed the Bay City plant. The answer is no. The victory will come incrementally, when we establish functional, job-rich and reasonably priced alternatives to coal plants through efficiency and homegrown clean energy alternatives like wind and solar.

There will be predictable cries from the usual sources that this project was scuttled by job-hating environmental groups. That's bullshit. The state's environmental lobby, frankly, doesn't have the clout to pull off such a David/Goliath slaying. Consumers Energy, to its credit, did not scapegoat the enviros, but simply said the economy doesn't support their plant at this time. That's the simple truth. And one that Consumers' shareholders and customers can be thankful the company has acknowledged.



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