Our Process

 Unique Challenge

J.B. Sims coal power plant served our community with reliable and affordable power for over 37 years. However, as GHBLP renewed our strategic plan in 2016, it became apparent that our community needed to reevaluate where and how we get our energy. Several important factors were in play:

1. Viability of an old plant

J.B. Sims was no longer an economically or environmentally responsible way of producing power for the Grand Haven area. The cost to operate, repair, and maintain the plant continued to rise year after year. The cost of alternative supply became less expensive, and compliance with evolving regulatory standards became more difficult and expensive. As a result, it no longer made sense to continue burning coal in Grand Haven.

2. Community desire for sustainability

Each year, GHBLP engages the community in numerous outreach initiatives and gathers structured feedback through an in-depth customer survey. It’s clear that our customers place a strong value on sourcing power from sustainable resources so long as the utility can also maintain stable, affordable rates.

3. Reliability, affordability, and local control

Reliable electricity with stable, competitive rates is critical to retain business growth and job creation, and promote the quality of life in our community. Our customers have indicated that retaining local decision-making is an important component of delivering affordable electricity to our community.

In solving for these realities and important community values, GHBLP embarked in a process to engage our customers, experts and city officials in industry-proven best practices to ensure our energy future.



The timeline below does not begin at our founding in 1896, but in 2016 with our most recent strategic plan, leading up through the present. To fully understand GHBLP’s current plans for energy supply, it’s important to understand how and why we arrived at these decisions.

June 1, 2016

GHBLP begins implementation of FY 2017 – 2021 Strategic Plan

In collaboration with the community, the Board approved a new Strategic Plan that laid the pathway for a dynamic transition toward advanced transmission and distribution infrastructure, and evaluation of new technologies and contracts to diversify our power supply portfolio.

Jun 2016 – Jun 2018

GHBLP reevaluates the long-term viability of J.B. Sims coal plant

In 2015, GHBLP invested approximately $5 million in a major overhaul of power plant equipment at J.B. Sims Unit III. GHBLP also renegotiated the fuel contract, and implemented operational measures  to improve productivity and substantially lower the cost of production. Over the course of two years, the utility staff were successful in improving the plant’s performance. However, its aging infrastructure still could not deliver a cost/kWh competitive with other sources available in the wholesale power marketplace.

Jun 2017 – Jun 2019

GHBLP upgrades local transmission system and interconnections with the regional network

GHBLP invested $6 million in a multi-phase replacement of outdated transmission lines and connections to the regional network (the grid). With the aging high-voltage lines having reached the end of their useful life and having insufficient capacity to meet maximum peak system load, GHBLP needed to install a more robust local transmission system to reliably import power to Grand Haven via the regional transmission network from remote sources. These upgrades also provide GHBLP customers with improved reliability locally and increased access to lower wholesale power costs and renewable energy purchases.

These investments were also required of GHBLP before it could seek and gain access to Network Integration Transmission Service (NITS) from the regional Independent System Operator. NITS is a higher value transmission service from the regional network in both reliability and functionality, as compared to the more interruptible Point-to-Point transmission service GHBLP had utilized when it produced locally most of the power it used.

Apr. 24, 2018

The Board decides J.B. Sims will cease operations as of June, 1, 2020.

The board decided that J.B. Sims would cease operations by June of 2020 based on 8 key points including the facility’s increasing costs, risk and alignment with customer sentiment.

Aug 15 & 16, 2018

Power Supply Planning hosts 2x Townhall Meetings

GHBLP and City Council, hosted two town hall meetings, engaging 116 community members to gather sentiment on the future of J.B. Sims, renewables, rates and future energy options.

Nov 5th, 6th & 7th, 2018

Power Supply Planning hosts 3x Community and 2x Business forums

The power planning team with Burns & McDonnell and GHBLP hosted three community forums and two business forums to gather feedback on proposed future energy scenarios.

Nov, 2018

Grand Haven City Council resolves to approve the decommissioning of Sims.

The Grand Haven City Council resolved to approve the decommissioning of J.B. Sims conditioned on receiving commitments from GHBLP that “by June of 2023, Grand Haven will have the capacity to generate a majority of the local electricity within the service area and that future facilities will include capacity to partner in the support of the snowmelt system.”

Dec. 20, 2018

The Board receives the results of the Burns & McDonnell Power Supply Plan

GHBLP publicly reviewed and shared the presentation and full Power Supply Plan report from Burns & McDonnell, which synthesized previous studies, community outreach efforts and industry forecasts to recommend a 35-40MW RICE generation facility at Harbor Island.

The Board commits to City Council to construct generation capacity locally by 2023

In alignment with the Burns & McDonnell Power Supply Plan and the specific direction of the City Council from their Nov, 2018 session, the Board resolved to commit to City Council to build local capacity to meet the majority of GHBLP’s power needs by 2023.

1st Half 2019

GHBLP applies for and receives approval for regional transmission service

To secure reliable power beyond the end-of-life for J.B. Sims coal plan, GHBLP sought and received approval for Network Integrated Transmission Service (NITS) from the regional transmission operator. This created fair, reliable access for GHBLP to purchase all of our power from other regional generation sources.

June 27, 2019

Burns & McDonnell presents PDR for cost-prohibitive 36MW plant

At the June Board meeting, Burns & McDonnell presented a project definition report (PDR) for a 36MW RICE generation plant that would be cost-prohibitive due to uncertainty in the condition of piling beneath the current J.B. Sims plant, remediation costs and inadequate natural gas pipeline infrastructure. The consultants recommended right-sizing a new direction while proceeding on site cleanup and demolition work.

Feb. 20, 2020

Board approves interim snowmelt plan

With J.B. Sims scheduled for demolition, it would no longer be able to provide its waste heat to the downtown snowmelt system. GHBLP worked with City officials and proposed an interim natural gas-fired hot water boiler solution to ensure the system could continue operating through the winter of 2020-2021.

Board approves Progressive AE to assist with developing a revised Master Plan for the J.B. Sims site

Board approved contracting with ProgressiveAE to assist with “right-size” Project Definition (Phase II) of the Harbor Island Redevelopment Project.

Sep 17, 2020

Progressive AE Presents Harbor Island Redevelopment Master Plan

ProgressiveAE presented the board with a smaller locally-owned Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generation solution and concept designs for the Operations and Technical Center. The plan (in summary) recommends:

  • GHBLP to redevelop half of the former J.B. Sims site, turning the rest to public use
  • The site would include the substation, regional transmission connection, operations and technical center, housing for CHP generating equipment and  snowmelt boilers, and additional space for future technology like advanced energy storage and a community solar garden.
  • 12.5MW of combined heat and power generation recommended

Oct 15, 2020

The Board approves the Harbor Island Redevelopment Master Plan

The Board approved ProgressiveAE’s proposed master plan and to seek more detailed design and engineering proposals. Get the full story by clicking the button below.

Nov 5, 2020

The Board approves contracts for Harbor Island Redevelopment Design & Engineering

GHBLP reviews and approves three contracts with ProgressiveAE, Power Engineers Collaborative and NTH consultants to design, engineer and secure air permitting for the proposed Operations and Technical Center, including peaking generation at the utility’s Harbor Island site.

Feb 23, 2021

Harbor island redevelopment design plans shared with the public

GHBLP and Progressive AE, the design firm chosen for the project, share renders of the redeveloped Harbor Island site and answer questions from the community.

May 20, 2021

Board approves capital improvement plan with Harbor Island redevelopment

GHBLP approves a FY2022 budget and 5-year capital improvement plan that includes redevelopment plans for Harbor Island and an overall rate reduction.

Jun 17, 2021

Board approves Sims Site Redevelopment Project and Up to $50 Million Bond

GHBLP approves the Sims site redevelopment project and sale of 20-year utility system revenue bonds up to $50 million to pay for the cost of the Sims plant demolition, recent substation and infrastructure improvements, environmental remediation, an Operations and Technology facility and a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant on the Sims site on Harbor Island. The bond resolution is sent to City Council for their review and approval.

Aug 9 & 11, 2021

City Council & Board host town hall meetings

City Council and GHBLP hold two town hall meetings at the Community Center and St. Patrick’s Family Center prior to the City Council meeting to discuss Grand Haven’s energy future and the Harbor Island site.  

Aug 16, 2021

City Council tables bond vote

Grand Haven City Council decides to table the expected bond vote. Council speculates that they may rescind the 2018 resolution given to GHBLP to generate power locally.

Aug 19, 2021

Board approves 5-year capacity purchase

With City Council’s decision and the decreased community support for funding local generation, GHBLP staff recommend the Board authorize Michigan Public Power Agency (MPPA) to purchase the required capacity from the market.

What’s Next?

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