- Associated Press - Sunday, April 7, 2019

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group has shut down its Presque Isle coal-fired power plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is replacing the electric generation site with two natural gas-fired power plants, the utility holding company said.

The plant closure in Marquette, on the shore of Lake Superior, is the latest effort by the company to transition from coal to natural gas, wind and solar power and is part of WEC Energy’s larger strategy to reform its electrical generation to balance dependability and customer cost with environmental care.

By 2050, the company aims to slash carbon releases by 80% from its 2005 levels.

WEC Energy’s subsidiary, Upper Michigan Energy Resources (UMERC), said it launched commercial operation of the A.J. Mihm Generating Station in Baraga County and the F.D. Kuester Generating Station in Negaunee Township on March 31.

“The new generating stations are good for our customers, good for business and good for electric reliability throughout the U.P.,” said Kevin Fletcher, president and chief executive officer of WEC Energy Group. “Closure of the Presque Isle Power Plant also helps achieve our goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40%, well ahead of our 2030 target.”

The advanced generating stations are projected to save UMERC customers nearly $600 million over the next 30 years, UMERC officials said.

The new stations eliminate the need for extra transmission capacity and potential renovations that would have been required at the former Presque Isle Power Plant if it remained open.

WEC Energy financed the $275 million investment. Half of the investment will be recouped through a 20-year agreement with Cliffs Natural Resources. The other half will be recovered in retail electric rates.

The two plants have a joint generating capacity of 183 megawatts.

The closure came after Michigan regulators approved the two gas-fueled power plants for the Upper Peninsula in 2017. Plans for this change date back to 2015 when then-Governor Rick Snyder called for action to resolve the region’s energy crisis.

The company has yet to decide what to do with the retired coal plant site, Fletcher said.

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