Michigan utility company to go zero coal

Actions speak louder than words for Consumers Energy, which sees 40 percent of its provided energy coming from renewables by 2040.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Feb. 20, 2018 at 6:24 AM
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Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Coal will no longer be used as an energy source for Michigan residents as more renewables come on stream in the decades ahead, a utility company said.

Public utility company Consumers Energy, which provides gas and electricity to about 60 percent of the state population, said it would no longer be using coal as a power source by 2040. By then, the company said it expects more than 40 percent of its provided energy will come from renewable resources.

President and CEO Patti Poppe said commitments to date have led to a 38 percent reduction in carbon intensity, but that's not enough.

"Our actions speak louder than words and we have a track record of doing more than is required," she said in a statement.

A "leaner vision," which the company said it would spell out in more detail later this year, calls for a greater emphasis on wind and solar power reserves. The company already operates two wind farms in the state and utility scale solar facilities on two university campuses.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code late last year, extending temporary relief to American taxpayers and permanent breaks for corporations, with oil, gas and utility companies sharing the gains.

After the signing, the Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Sally Talberg said the new law means big relief for utilities, so the state wants to know about the impact on customers. The commission three years ago let Consumers Energy increase its electric rates by more than $1.00 on monthly consumer bills while the state worked to retire aging coal-fired power plants and adopt new natural gas options.

There was no statement on the possible impact on consumer rates from the utility company.

Michigan's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, was criticized in 2016 for suspending state efforts with the national Clean Power Plan. Unveiled in late 2015, the measure set a goal of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, by 32 percent of their 2005 baseline by 2030.

In March last year, Snyder said the state was moving forward on its own as coal fades from the state power sector. The move by Consumers Energy, meanwhile, comes as Trump touts coal as a more consistent form of energy for the grid, compared with variable sources like wind and solar.

A renewable energy standard in the state set the benchmark at 12.5 percent by 2019 and 15 percent by 2021.

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