How much will closing 25 coal plants cost Michigan ratepayers?

Plans to shut down 25 coal plants in Michigan over the next five years has been heralded as a big step toward cleaner air in the Great Lakes State, but how much more it will cost ratepayers during the transition is unclear.

It’s expected the plants will close via a combination of tougher regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the coal plants reaching retirement age.

Michigan derives more than 50 percent of its electricity generation from coal-fired power plants.

The largest utility in Michigan, Consumers Energy, said it will spend $2 billion on upgrades on five of its newer coal plants to ensure they comply with the provisions of the just-enacted Clean Power Plan, which President Obama called “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.”

Consumers Energy says it plans to retire seven of its oldest coal plants and coal units by April. Those seven facilities make up 30 percent of the company’s total generating capacity.

How will the state make up for the loss? Largely by transitioning from coal to natural gas-fired power plants, which generally burn cleaner than coal, importing power through a regional grid and using more renewable energy.

But finding out how much the move will cost everyday consumers of Michigan electricity isn’t easy.

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