Michigan’s biggest energy provider will phase out coal, despite Trump

The coal industry seems to be singing its swan song, despite political efforts to save it.

The Simon Power Plant at Michigan State University. Image credits: Michael P. Kube-McDowell

President-elect Trump has vowed to end the ‘war on coal’ but the electrical industry isn’t really swayed. DTE Energy, Michigan’s biggest electricity provider has announced that it will phase out coal regardless of the political direction of the country. CEO Gerry Anderson said they’ve already shuttered three coal-fired units and will close another eight by 2030.

“All of those retirements are going to happen regardless of what Trump may or may not do with the Clean Power Plan,” said Anderson in an interview.

He went on to explain that while a new coal plant is set to last until the 2030s, that will probably be the last coal plant Michigan – or even the US – ever builds. Coal plants are expensive to build and maintain, while other sources of energy are becoming cheaper and cheaper.

“I don’t know anybody in the country who would build another coal plant,” Anderson said.

However, it’s not all good. While renewables play a key role in the future, natural gas is still a priority in Michigan (and in much of the US). Natural gas prices in the United States are low right now, much cheaper than coal. According to a February report from the Michigan Public Service Commission, the construction of a new coal plant cost $133 per megawatt hour, while natural gas is two times cheaper. Wind comes in at $74.52 per megawatt hour, which is competitive with natural gas, but it’s not quite there yet. But the thing is consumers want renewable energy and support subsidies for clean energy or carbon tax for dirty energy. Many are willing to even pay an extra bit for renewables.

This idea is becoming more and more popular with policy makers as well. According to Vox, a surprising number of Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), are actually in favor of those renewable tax credits. So all in all, despite heavy lobby and a future president who made this industry a central point of his campaign, coal seems doomed. Hopefully, that gap will be filled by sustainable sources and not natural gas.

One thought on “Michigan’s biggest energy provider will phase out coal, despite Trump

  1. Brian

    Fracked gas is a pawn in the Obama USA war on Russia and the middle east, using fossils as a weapon. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/america-smashing-russia-opecs-grip-the-oil-market-17340
    The frackers are going bankrupt. It is not sustainable, very soon, months, a year or so, not much longer, the whole industry will implode. Gas availability will plummet, and prices will skyrocket. Then the cycle of bankrupt will repeat again and again, smaller each time, because people are bailing on fossils volatility, and going solar and wind, for that reason alone in many case. Every winter the gas owner yank our chain too.

    I'd read that doc again: "For DTE Electric Company-owned projects, the present value of the generation based on a 22-year life was used. IRECs were not factored into the weighting of any of the renewable energy projects; however, doing so would increase the cost effectiveness of renewable energy.
    The combined cost of $37.43 per MWh "

    Remember that coal is getting massive gov breaks, it's not a level playing field.

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