By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BRIDGMAN — A lot of questions linger with news the Palisades nuclear power plant is planning to close in 2018.
But whether the closure will affect other energy producers like the Cook Nuclear Plant near Bridgman is a bit more clear.
Cook Plant spokesman Bill Schalk said the Bridgman plant will be unaffected by the closing.
“Cook’s in a strong financial position for Indiana Michigan Power,” said Schalk, referring to the owner. “We’re a large, two-unit site, and we’ll continue to be a low-cost provider to our customers. Certainly we know it will have a severe impact on our friends and neighbors who work” at Palisades.
When Entergy bought Palisades from Consumers Energy in 2007, Consumers Energy agreed to purchase electricity from the plant through 2022.
Market conditions have since changed, allowing Consumers to buy electricity from other sources at cheaper rates. As a result, Consumers reached an agreement this week to end its power purchase agreement with Palisades.
The agreement originally committed Consumers to buy nearly all of the power that Palisades generated through 2022. Now Palisades is expected to operate through the end of the fuel cycle before shutting down Oct. 1, 2018.
Schalk said the low cost of natural gas and subsidized renewals have a had a big impact on the electricity market.
“Single-unit sites in unregulated markets have been hit the hardest,” Schalk said in reference to Palisades. “There have been several other closings in similar markets. It’s always a surprise when you hear it, but this has been going on in the industry for years.”
Palisades generates 811 megawatts, which is enough to power more than 800,000 homes.
Cook has two units that generate a combined 2,200 megawatts. Schalk said Cook powers about 1.5 million homes across Indiana and Michigan. Cook has 1,200 workers throughout Southwest Michigan, while Palisades has about 600.
With the way current market conditions for unregulated utilities have been trending, Schalk said sometimes the cost to make energy is higher than what is made.
“AEP is focusing on our regulated business,” Schalk reaffirmed. “Cook is part of Indiana Michigan Power, which are regulated utilities in Indiana and Michigan. Palisades’ plant is unregulated since they just sell their power.
“This doesn’t affect our ability to supply our customers with electricity. We’re a low-cost provider for our utility.”
Schalk said I&M officials have no plans to extend its customer reach further north because of the Palisades closure.
About 65 percent of Cook’s energy goes to Indiana as is, Schalk said. Indiana Michigan Power has 128,000 Michigan customers compared to 460,000 in Indiana.
With the closing of the Palisades plant in Covert Township and coal-fired plants going offline, Consumers Energy will look elsewhere for energy production.
The energy company stated in a news release Thursday they plan on investing in waste-reducing energy efficiency programs and adding more renewable and natural gas energy to the company’s portfolio.
“We have a comprehensive plan to ensure ongoing reliability and affordability for our 1.8 million electric customers,” Patti Poppe, president and chief executive officer for Consumers Energy, said in a news release.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 9, 2016)