MPSC approves Consumers Energy long-term clean energy plan

Published on June 11, 2019 by Chris Galford

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The first utility-based long-term clean energy plan in Michigan under new laws has now been approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), opening the doors to the company’s new renewables-heavy, clean energy plan.

The plan calls for the elimination of coal usage by 2040 at Michigan’s largest utility — Consumers Energy — along with the reduction of carbon emissions by more than 90 percent. The company also seeks the addition of more innovative energy solutions to meet the reductions in energy this could cause. A total of 5,000 megawatts of solar energy will be taken on through competitive bidding by 2030 and energy storage efforts are being investigated. As they move away from new, large power plants, they are encouraging customers to reduce energy waste, move their usage to more affordable times, support new renewable sources and invest in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

“It’s important to understand the role that everyone plays in Michigan’s clean energy future,” Patti Poppe, Consumers Energy’s president and CEO, said. “We are working with policymakers, businesses and environmental groups to develop our energy plan, but our customers will play a key role by participating in programs that will reduce our demand for energy and manage the power grid more efficiently and effectively.”

Specifically, the plan will see two coal-fired generating units at the Karn generating facility near Bay City, Michigan retired in 2023, followed by three Campbell generating units near Holland in 2031 and 2040. Conservation voltage reduction programs of 44 megawatts over the next three years are being introduced, along with demand response programs to shave peak consumption by 607 MW.

“This is a significant milestone in the implementation of Michigan’s 2016 energy laws,” Sally Talberg, chairman of the MPSC, said. “With this first utility integrated resource plan (IRP), we are seeing the positive outcomes of bipartisan legislation and a collaboration among stakeholders. This ultimately benefits customers, optimizes utility investment, and protects the environment with an increased commitment to clean energy and market forces.”

The settlement had been contested by Solar Energy Industries Association Inc. and Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, but the MPSC found the first long-term utility outlook approved since the state passed new energy laws in 2016 to be fair and reasonable, with reliable service provided to customers. Primarily, the plan had the support of both leading environmental and business groups, including the Sierra Club, Independent Power Producers Coalition, the Michigan Environmental Council and others.

When Michigan’s new energy law went into effect in 2017, it required the MPSC to create modeling parameters for utilities to follow in their future IRPs. These lay out companies’ efforts to meet customer needs over periods of five, 10, and 15 years. Consumers will file its next IRP in June 2021.