Our Clean Energy Plan accelerated our transition away from coal as a fuel source for electricity by 15 years. We retired two coal-fired units at the Karn generating complex near Bay City in 2023 and plan to close the last three units at our Campbell generating complex near Holland in 2025.
We value the employees who’ve operated our coal-fired plants safely and productively to provide electricity for customers for so many years. As we have in the past, we are supporting the co-workers and communities affected by early plant retirements. We are finding new roles for those who want to stay, helping local leaders pursue new economic futures and fulfilling our environmental responsibilities at the sites.
There were no forced layoffs when we closed the Karn units in 2023 — nor do we expect any at Campbell. With strong support from our union partners, we’re helping Michigan continue to lead the Midwest in clean energy jobs by supporting employees’ transition from fossil fuel generation to wind and solar power plants.
Equipping a Workforce to Meet New Challenges
The apprenticeship program, which is accredited and takes 2.5 years to complete, is designed to develop a skilled workforce in house to support our wind and solar assets as we add clean energy to our portfolio. We also offer a Solar/Battery Technician program that allows employees to get into the field more quickly or transition to pursue a full apprenticeship.
Jon Doerr, who worked at Karn before the plant closed, recently started his apprenticeship and is eager to learn a new role as a wind technician at Cross Winds Energy Park in Michigan’s Thumb region.
That’s the job Jay Dudley does now. One of the apprentice program’s first nine graduates, Dudley helps operate and maintain our Gratiot Farms Wind Project.
Here’s more about each of their stories:
I Wondered, ‘Where Will I Be Now?’
When Jon Doerr landed a job as an environmental operator at the Karn Generating Plant – his third position at Consumers Energy – he figured he’d finally found a permanent role.
“When I got the call for Karn it was a load off my shoulders and I thought I’d retire from there,” said Doerr, a 37-year-old Saginaw native. “But a year after I got in there and got situated, they said we were shutting it down. I wondered, ‘where will I be now?’”
After the disappointment of the plant closing, Doerr applied to join the Renewable Specialist Apprentice Program. One of the first tests in the process was climbing a 300-foot wind turbine while carrying tools in under 12 minutes, then performing a variety of tasks and jobs at the top.
“I was never afraid of heights, but I was never exposed to working at heights either,” Doerr said. “I knew if I passed, I could do the job.”
Pass he did. Doerr started the first phase of apprentice training in July and is enjoying a new career path as a wind technician at Cross Winds, about a 40-minute commute from Saginaw.
Best of all, Doerr has the stable job he wanted to help support his wife, Amanda, and the couple’s two young children.
“I don’t see me leaving this any time soon,” Doerr said. “I don’t even look at job lists. I’m content. I’m close enough to home and doing something I like to do.”
Turning Wrenches High in the Sky
Jay Dudley was fulfilled in his job as a mechanic at the White Pigeon Compressor Station, which helps safely transport natural gas through our vast delivery system to homes and businesses throughout the state.
But Dudley also felt something missing: Family.
White Pigeon, one of eight compressor stations in our system, is in St. Joseph County near the Indiana border. That’s a long way from the Lansing area, where Dudley grew up, or his wife Krista’s native Grand Rapids.
Thus, Dudley jumped at the opportunity to enter the Renewable Specialist Apprentice Program and become a wind technician at the Gratiot Farms Wind Park near Alma.
“There wasn’t a huge learning curve,” Dudley, 33, said. “We are still turning wrenches. We do more electrical work on wind turbines than a compressor station. But you’re still working with your hands and the apprenticeship program gives you the tools to be successful.”
His daily work on wind turbines may not be dramatically different, but Dudley knows he’s on the front lines of a sweeping change from coal to renewables.
“It’s a big transition,” he said. “Fossil generation has been around for years and renewables are still in their infancy. Many of our processes and procedures were based off fossil. Our group has done an amazing job developing processes and procedures that make more sense for wind and solar.”
And when the work week ends, Dudley, his wife and their three children have a much shorter trip to see familiar faces.
“My kids see their grandparents and cousins more often, it’s definitely helped,” Dudley said. “It’s hard being so far away. Now we’re only an hour away and we’ve been able to have the relationships with we’ve always wanted.”