Consumers Energy Moves To Build Natural Gas Power Plant In Genesee County


Posted by Heidi Schwartz

Consumers Energy has taken the next major step for its new natural gas plant in Genesee County, filing for approval of a certificate of necessity with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). The certificate of necessity filing, allowed for under Michigan’s energy reform law, provides Consumers Energy’s comprehensive analysis for the 700 megawatt natural gas plant planned for Thetford Township, about 20 miles northeast of Flint. The review process for the filing is expected to take nine months.

“This $750 million project will create 600 construction jobs, about 30 operating and support jobs, and ongoing economic benefits for the regional I-75 corridor and Genesee County,” said John Russell, Consumers Energy’s chief executive officer.

Tim Sparks, Consumers Energy’s vice president of energy supply operations, said the new facility will be one of the most economical and efficient power plants in operation, using advanced combined cycle technology.

Sparks noted that the plant’s 700 megawatts are needed due to the scheduled suspension of operation of Consumers Energy’s seven smallest and oldest coal plants, which have a total capacity of about 950 megawatts. The company’s customers set an all-time peak demand record in 2012, as electric sales rebound with Michigan’s improving economy.

“When operational in 2017, this plant will produce about 50 percent less carbon emissions than the coal plants it will replace. This switch in generation will help us reach our greenhouse gas reduction target of 20 percent by 2025,” said Sparks.

An economic impact study for the Thetford project listed numerous benefits for Michigan, the regional I-75 corridor and Genesee County. The study cited increased construction and spin-off jobs, local economic investment, and increased annual property taxes benefiting Genesee County, Thetford Township and its libraries, parks, health services, local schools and other special districts.

Consumers Energy owns the 230-acre Thetford Township site, which features access to high-volume natural gas delivery and high-voltage power transmission lines. The site already is home to nine smaller natural gas fired combustion turbine units.

The current project schedule calls for construction to begin in 2014 and for the new combined cycle power plant to begin serving Consumers Energy’s electric customers in 2017. At 700 megawatts, the plant would be able to serve a community of about 445,000.

Development of the power plant is tied to Consumers Energy obtaining an air permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), a certificate of necessity from the MPSC, and suitable financing. Consumers Energy is awaiting an air permit from the MDEQ, having completed the application process.  Its air permit application covered two combined cycle units at the Thetford site, supporting the company’s option to develop a second unit at a later date.

Sparks said development of a major new natural gas fueled power plant is part of the company’s Balanced Energy Initiative, a comprehensive plan that includes renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to meet the energy needs of Consumers Energy’s customers through 2040.

“We selected natural gas as the fuel source for this new power plant because we project it will be the most economical way to serve our customers in the future and continue to bring them value,” Sparks said.

Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.