MSU announces plan to end use of coal in power plant
MSU will eliminate coal burning at the T.B. Simon Power Plant south of campus by the end of 2016 in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.
The announcement was made Wednesday morning as a part of a webcast discussion and update on MSU’s Energy Transition Plan that was created in 2012.
So far, MSU has reduced coal use by 65 percent since 2009 and currently only burns coal in one of the four furnaces at the T.B. Simon Power Plant.
The other three furnaces have been fueled by natural gas provided by Consumers Energy.
Consumers Energy is also constructing a new substation on campus at an estimated cost of $23 million to power the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams with electricity.
The new substation is planned to be finished by 2017 and will also help to balance the steam and electric levels at the T.B. Simon Power Plant in order to ensure it runs optimally.
The Energy Transition Plan set two benchmarks for MSU to reach by July 1 of this year: to generate 15 percent of campus energy from renewable sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent.
The reduction in coal use has lead to an 18 percent carbon emissions reduction, which is more than halfway to MSU’s benchmark goal. Increasing natural gas use and the ultimate elimination of coal completely at the T.B. Simon Power Plant are expected to reduce carbon emissions by another 15 percent.
“This is a great step, but as MSU relies more heavily on natural gas, it will rely on dangerous fracking processes and we would like to see more renewable energies explored,” MSU student and Sierra Club organizer Courtney Bourgoin said.
While MSU appears on track to meet its emissions reduction goal, it remains unclear whether MSU will meet its renewable energy benchmark as the deadline looms larger.
Since 2009, MSU has added 8 percent renewable energy on campus with small-scale projects including the use of an anaerobic digester on south campus, sustainable energy practices in campus buildings and a limited number of solar panels atop the MSU Surplus Store.
MSU has partnered with Customer First Renewables in an attempt to implement renewable energy sources on and off campus, yet there were no announcements yesterday about new sources being implemented.
“The nature of moving to 100 percent renewable is one of those huge stretch goals and the marketplace is going to have to help us achieve that,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said.
The company has been researching the use of wind power as a source for campus energy and other sources such as hydro and solar power are actively being looked at for implementation on campus, Assistant Director of the Office of Campus Sustainability Jennifer Battle said.
Battle said that MSU is currently in a competitive bidding process with Customer First Renewables in an attempt to acquire large-scale renewable sources for MSU.
Battle could not say what kind of renewable sources MSU is bidding on, and couldn’t offer any guarantee that MSU will reach the 15 percent benchmark that was set in 2012.
“I can’t say definitively that we will reach our renewable goal by June 30 of this year, but our intent is to reach our goals,” Battle said.
Yesterday’s announcement was important for MSU, Battle said, and is just one step toward creating a beacon of large-scale sustainability among universities.