CMS Energy Calls for Repeal of Electric Deregulation

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JACKSON, Mich. (AP) -- Having changed itself into a smaller, more focused utility, CMS Energy Corp. has a 20-year plan that says a mix of natural gas and coal generation offers the best solution for the state's energy needs.
But the company's chief executive says it will not build a new power plant unless Michigan lawmakers repeal or revise a 2000 law that lets consumers pick their electricity suppliers.
The Jackson-based utility has shed most of its overseas assets, worth about $1.4 billion, to focus on providing power to its Michigan customers.
Its new plan to be released Tuesday will call for making an investment in baseload generation, an increase in the use of renewable energies and renewed efforts at energy efficiency, the Jackson Citizen Patriot said Sunday.
In January, the Michigan Public Service Commission outlined similar goals, including tripling use of renewable energy. The agency's plan also said the state needs a new power plant, probably coal-fired, within eight years.
CMS's plan projects a 1 percent annual growth for electric customers' peak demands, compared with 1.2 percent projected in the state's plan.
Dave Joos, CMS's president and chief executive, said its Consumers Energy Co. subsidiary will need 1,400 megawatts of new energy by 2015. He said natural gas and coal are the best ways to get there.
To build a new power plant, Joos said the state would have to revisit its deregulation laws. He said Michigan's model, which allows customers to come and go as they please, does not assure utilities of a customer base needed before building a new plant.
"We think the best course of action is a full repeal," he said.
That's a position that Barry Cargill, executive director of the Customer Choice Coalition, strongly opposes.
"But I don't blame them for saying they need to eliminate their competition before they build a new power plant," Cargill said. "What company wouldn't want that?"
Joos said it is important to act quickly to increase generating capacity.
Even if work began tomorrow on a coal plant, it might come online around the time the state and utilities are projecting large energy shortfalls, he said.
"We're at risk of being stuck in a quagmire for a real long time," Joos said.

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