Consumers Energy’s power plan could become a clean energy model for other IOUs

Posted on Jun 21, 2022 by Kim Riley

Credit: Consumers Energy

A widely supported proposed settlement agreement reached between Michigan’s attorney general and Consumers Energy on the utility’s 15-year, investor-owned power plan is set to be implemented Thursday by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).

Known as the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), Consumers Energy is required by law to file its plan by June 30.

“If approved, this historic settlement agreement would make Consumers Energy one of the nation’s leading clean energy utility companies,” said Mike Berkowitz, senior Michigan campaign representative for the Sierra Club Beyond campaign. Coal. “Other IOUs should note that you can really reduce pollution while saving taxpayers money by switching to clean, renewable energy solutions instead of fossil fuels.”

IOUs should also recognize that there is a wide range of organizations, businesses and elected officials who care about their IRPs, Berkowitz told Daily Energy Insider. “And if they table disappointing plans, they will encounter organized resistance,” he said. “We encourage robust stakeholder processes preceding any IRP modeling or planning, especially with frontline community groups and those disproportionately affected by fossil fuel pollution.”

The proposed settlement between the AG and Consumers Energy, based in Jackson, Mich., which supplies natural gas and electricity to 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million people, would create more savings per compared to the utility’s original proposal and would end the use of coal by consumers. by 2025 — 15 years ahead of schedule, according to state AG Dana Nessel.

“Not only is this settlement a win for our environment, it’s also a win for Michigan taxpayers who are struggling to stay up to date on their bills,” Nessel said in April after reaching the settlement with consumers. . “This agreement was truly a collaborative effort of all parties involved and a symbol of what we can achieve when stakeholders work together to create positive change.”

According to Berkowitz, Consumers Energy faced a tremendous amount of advocacy work that helped bring the proposed settlement to fruition.

For example, his group helped launch a public campaign with a large and diverse group of 75 organizations, businesses, elected officials and volunteer leaders calling on Consumers Energy to spend the next 15 years helping them build a clean energy future for Michigan in instead of investing in dirtier fossil fuels.

The coalition also sent out a letter last summer challenging the utility to become one of the cleanest in the Midwest and gathered more than 55 signatories to demand that the MPSC hold public hearings. “We quickly dominated attendance at these hearings, with literally only one public speaker unaligned with our coalition,” Berkowitz said.

Additionally, educational resources were created for Sierra Club members, allies and the public on consumer IRP and how to engage, and advocates posted talking points, social media language , pre-written emails and graphics to make it easy for coalition members. participate, he said.

Other advocacy efforts include the successful passage by the Traverse City, Mich., Light and Electrical Department Board of Directors of a resolution calling on Consumers Energy to expedite the removal of its JH Campbell coal-fired plant, from which the city department has purchased output since 1980. The settlement would guarantee 2025 as the plant’s retirement date.

Clean energy advocates also delivered 2,500 petitions to the Consumers Energy office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with more than 4,000 public comments submitted on file, said Berkowitz, who noted that 50 elected officials also signed a petition. letter sent to MPSC, ranging from local level state, county commission, city council and members of the Michigan Public Utilities Board.

Berkowitz also pointed out that advocates not only called on Consumers Energy to shut down its coal plant, but also that the utility is not acquiring three fossil gas plants and instead replacing the majority of that capacity with renewables and batteries. of storage. These measures, Berkowitz said, would save taxpayers hundreds of millions. The utility would also be required to provide more than $30 million in shareholder funds — not taxpayer funds — for low-income bill assistance, he said.

The MPSC should approve the settlement, he added, so consumers can get to work moving beyond coal by 2025, planning for worker transitions and developing clean energy.

“This is a groundbreaking agreement that ensures Consumers Energy responds to the urgency demanded by the climate crisis while creating local green jobs,” Berkowitz said. “Residents of western Michigan will be able to breathe easier knowing that the JH Campbell Coal Generating Station will soon stop polluting their air, along with Pigeon Lake, a tributary of Lake Michigan.”

And if the settlement is approved, “we will organize to ensure Consumers Energy meets its commitment to retire the JH Campbell plant by 2025 and ensure a just transition for plant workers and surrounding communities,” he added.

On another note, Berkowitz said if the MPSC approves the settlement, then Detroit-based DTE Energy would be the only major utility in Michigan that hasn’t yet overtaken coal. “They intend to file an IRP in October, and I anticipate that will be the next major inflection point in Michigan’s energy policy,” he said.