CERAWeek: New coal plants, "swimming upstream"

CMS Energy president and CEO David Joos says most of his company’s coal plant fleet is 50 years old, but it’s no golden anniversary.
The Michigan-based company needs to build new plants not to meet demand, since demand is expected to grow by only three-tenths of a percent through 2025. But the aging infrastructure needs to be replaced with newer, more efficient plants.
And yes, he eyes coal plants despite the political unpopularity of coal’s greenhouse gas emissions. Most of Michigan’s power plants are coal-fired.
“Our belief is, coal does make sense,” Joos said, largely because it provides half the nation’s power and the U.S. has more coal reserves than any other country.
“We simply cannot abandon coal. But we do need to determine what is the environmentally acceptable way to use coal in the future,” he said.
But he said overcoming the hurdles to building a new coal plant amid environmental concerns is like “swimming upstream.”
CMS had targeted a new 800-megawatt plant for Bay City, Mich. because it already has an older plant there that needs to be replaced, and the geology at the site lends itself to carbon capture and storage–injecting carbon emissions underground rather than allowing them to spew into the air.
However, this week CMS postponed the plant’s startup to 2017 from 2015 because of regulatory delays and a request from Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to conduct more review on new coal plants.
Joos said the key to the Bay City project is that it would replace older, less efficient plants as well as provide geology conducive to carbon capture “and ultimately result in a significant improvement in our overall carbon footprint.”