Report pans coal-fired power plants

Report pans coal-fired power plants

A new report by the Environment Michigan Research and Policy Center regarding the future construction of coal-fired power plants suggests that, if the United States invested $137 billion in energy-efficiency measures instead of building power plants, electricity demand could be reduced by 19% by 2025.

The nation’s energy companies plan to build more than 150 coal-fired plants around the country during the next decade. Michigan is considering building as many as two coal-fired power plants by 2012.

But proponents of using more renewable and sustainable energy sources — wind, solar and biomass — to increase Michigan’s electric supply argue that investing in coal technology will only increase the state’s dependence on the importation of electrical power. Michigan utilities import about $20 billion worth of electricity from outside the state.

“Michigan is in the midst of making a major investment decision now, and Michigan just can’t afford to invest in dirty coal-fired plants,” said Mike Shriberg, director of Ann Arbor-based Environment Michigan.

The state has 20 coal-fired power plants. Manistee Saltwork Tondu Corp. proposes building a 425-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Manistee, the report says.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Public Service Commission’s Capacity Needs Forum report on electric generation recommended that the state consider building as many as two 500-megawatt plants by the year 2012.

“Utility companies that are building these coal-fired power plants are gambling with their investors’ money,” said Leslie Lowe, a spokeswoman for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. “This is a high-risk investment and probably an unwise investment.”

But several of Michigan’s utilities question the feasibility of Environment Michigan’s approach to gaining more energy efficiency in the state.

“We support conservation, efficiency improvements and the development of renewable technologies,” said Lorie Kessler, a spokeswoman for DTE Energy. “However, based on present projections, we also believe that we will need new coal-fired plants or new nuclear plants to serve the state’s energy needs, and we’re supportive of both of those technologies.

DTE is the owner of Detroit Edison, which serves 2.1 million electric customers in southeastern Michigan.

Kessler added that, whenever the next power plant is constructed in Michigan, it will “undoubtedly be the cleanest coal plant ever built in the state.”

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