Consumers Energy, the largest energy provider in Michigan, aims to reduce carbon emissions by 80% and completely stop using coal for electricity generation by 2040. The public utility also said it plans to make sure at least 40% of the energy produced by that date comes from renewable sources.
The announcement comes at a time when commercial and industrial customers in Michigan and across the country are seeking more renewable energy generation from providers. According to Consumers Energy’s 2017 sustainability report, renewables currently make up just 10% of the utility’s electric generation operating capacity. Coal is 21% and natural gas is 36%.
The new goals build on actions Consumers Energy has taken over the past five years to reduce emissions and start boosting renewables for customers. In 2016, they closed seven of their 12 coal-fired generating plants, which the utility says was more than any other investor-owned utility that year. The move, prompted by low natural gas prices and a federal push for lower emissions, saved ratepayers $38 million.
Last spring, Consumers Energy announced a tariff filed with state regulators allowing large commercial customers to purchase generation specifically from new renewable energy projects, Midwest Energy News reported.
“Utilities are making decisions by looking at what ratepayers want, what shareholders are seeking and what their largest customers are seeking and positioning themselves to respond,” Dan Scripps, senior advisor with the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, told the publication.
The Michigan Public Service Commission signed off on the new program to help large businesses become powered entirely by renewable energy in September. “Large businesses increasingly are making commitments to a future powered by clean energy, and we are pleased to give them the tools to do that,” Brian Rich, Consumers Energy’s senior vice president of customer experience and technology said at the time.
Consumers Energy owns and operates two wind farms, operates two utility-scale solar projects at Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, and uses energy from Sempra Renewables’ 100-MW Apple Blossom wind farm project in Huron County.
In addition to boosting renewables, Consumers Energy has introduced energy efficiency programs that it says has helped customers save over $1 billion since 2009. That includes saving small businesses in the state more than $21 annually through the voluntary Small Business Energy Efficiency Program. Incentives help small businesses make upgrades such as replacing inefficient lighting, adding efficient lighting controls, and changing refrigeration.
The utility says it plans to publish a strategic roadmap for reaching the 2040 goals later this year when they file their Integrated Resource Plan with the Michigan Public Service Commission.
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