Michigan utility company Consumers Energy will change course to boost renewable power while spinning down its coal plants. In a new plan to be submitted to the Michigan Public Service Commission, the company will generate 40% of its power from renewable sources while cutting emissions by 80%, by 2040. This plan comes at a complex time in the utility industry, as it’s buffeted by conflicting factors. The result will be a long-term benefit to the environment and Michigan.
Planning for the Future
Currently, Consumers Energy operates 5 coal burning power units as well as 2 gas burning and 1 hydroelectric unit. This will change shortly. They have mapped out a series of steps to reach its goal of 40% renewable energy and 80% emission reduction.
- By 2021, Consumers will add 550 megawatts of wind capacity through construction of new plants. This is enough energy to power up to 200000 homes in Michigan.
- In 2023, they will close the Karn Bay 1 and 2 coal-burning units.
- Set an additional 5000 megawatts of solar power throughout the 2020s, along with increased battery storage for better power efficiency.
- By 2040 shut down its JH CampBell coal plant where its remaining 3 coal units are located.
- They will maintain operation of their gas units, which provide 10-15% of their total power capacity.
By 2040, Consumers will have constructed a new power-generation infrastructure while shrinking their eco-footprint into a greener tomorrow.
State of the Utilities Industry
As of now, 2018, the utility industry is in a state of flux. Environmental concerns from power generation and Consumers Energy’s goals are thrown in the mix with political influence from Washington DC and industry conflicts over the continued development of the power grid.
- The Trump administration has pushed to rejuvenate the fading coal industry, while also expanding nuclear power generation. It has pushed for immediate steps to keep all coal and nuclear plants open.
- The administration described this push as a matter of economic security and the coming energy crisis. Consumers’ objectives to expand wind and solar power fly in contrast to both these goals.
- CEO Patti Poppe says that the nation doesn’t face an energy crisis, that this new plan is an opportunity to create a “cleaner and cleaner energy supply.” Federal regulators support his position, disputing the notion that drawing back coal and nuclear power generation threatens the reliability of the national power grid.
- Consumers’ plan must be updated every 3 to 5 years under Michigan law. This gives plenty of opportunities to adjust it based on industry developments.
The conclusion of all this will be a modernization of Michigan’s and the national energy grid, increasing the viability of renewable energy.
A key factor in Consumers’ plan and the changing power grid is the new technology that will come over the horizon in the next few years. These will alter the energy grid forecast for the future.
- The main development is improvements in energy efficiency, which will modernize the grid.
- Consumers’ modeling analysis predicts that energy demand will fall 22% by 2040 due to grid modernization. Theoretically, this will negate any grid strain from closing the coal units.
- This combined with renewable energy development will improve the quality of Michigan’s air and water while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Experts including the Michigan Energy Innovative Business Council and Michigan Environmental Council are praising Consumers Energy for its steps into advancing green energy.
Consumers Energy is dedicated to providing power to much of Michigan in the most efficient way possible. To do so, they have started down an ambitious plan to replace their coal-burning power units with solar and wind generators. They will transition the Michigan power grid from badly polluting fossil fuels to renewable energy.