Senior environmental analyst Frank Rand has worked 19 years with Consumers Energy, nearly all of that time at the Whiting Plant near Monroe — an aging, coal-fired plant retired in 2016 due to environmental regulations and market forces. Rand, 48, has moved to a new role as we transition away from coal to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. He shared his thoughts on the plant closure and the company’s new strategic direction.
It was like a family — that’s just the way it was. It was a tight-knit group. I hadn’t seen that anywhere else. Once I saw it, I didn’t want to let it go. At the time I was living in Jackson and commuting 90 minutes and my oldest child (of four) was only in third grade. I had the opportunity to take another job within the company close to home. But I didn’t want to leave Whiting, so we moved down there.
It was almost like losing a member of the family, then cleaning up the house and getting ready to move everything out and sell it. Everybody had been there for a fair amount of time and even though they had opportunities to leave, they didn’t want to. It was a difficult time, but we went through it all together as a cohesive group.
Weird. Walking through a plant with no power, no lights and no water was like walking through a skeleton. It was cold and if somebody dropped something on the top floor, you could hear it in the basement. Usually, you couldn’t hear it 20 feet away when the plant was running.
I work out of our South Monroe Service Center, and I’m responsible for helping maintain environmental compliance at our natural gas compressor stations on the east side of the state. Even though I will put about 30,000 miles on my vehicle this year, I have no complaints. I have a good job and I’m working with great people.
I was always pretty skeptical about it and thinking we needed to have some coal because it’s not weather dependent and it’s always there as a backbone. When I started, coal was still on top and was the cheapest (fuel source). That’s not the case anymore. We’ve made huge strides in advancing wind and solar and the battery storage will help. We’re going in the right direction. I’m much less of a skeptic than I was.
Check out this story that was inspired by Frank Rand and our hard-working employees who are transitioning from careers at coal-fired plants to helping us create a sustainable energy future for Michigan.
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