COVERT — Consumers Energy is shopping for a power plant to convert to natural gas to make up for the energy it will lose when the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert Township closes.

Jackson-based Consumers announced last week it has informed the Michigan Public Service Commission it is in the market for a single-cycle or combined-cycle plant generating up to 800 megawatts in Lower Michigan, according to the Associated Press. 

“The goal is just to see what good, reliable and affordable power plants are out there that could help us with our plans,” Consumers spokesman Brian Wheeler said.

Entergy-owned Palisades is slated to close in October 2018, assuming the MPSC agrees to terminate the contract Entergy has to sell electricity to Consumers.

Consumers’ forerunner Consumers Power Co. built Palisades, licensed in 1971. Consumers sold Palisades to Entergy in 2007 and agreed to buy the plant’s electricity.

The MPSC has until August to decide whether it will let Consumers terminate its deal with Entergy. The contract had been slated to expire in 2022.

At stake are some 600 jobs and Van Buren County’s largest property tax payer. 

The MPSC will host back-to-back public meetings May 8 at the Van Buren Conference Center in Lawrence to talk about Consumers’ agreement, which the company said will save its customers money.

The meetings will include talking about securitization, the process by which a utility, following an issued financing order by the commission, replaces high-cost debt and equity with lower-cost debt in the form of bonds.

Consumers said it intends to recover through rates a securitization of the $172 million buyout fee due Entergy.

The commission will inform the public at the meetings about its role, the timeline and the administrative process to be followed in closure of the plant.

This story has been updated to correct an Associated Press error that incorrectly suggested Consumers was interested in buying the Palisades plant. Consumers is looking to purchase a natural gas plant but is not interested in the Palisades plant.