Michigan’s largest public utility company, Consumers Energy, has made the commitment to stop burning coal by 2040. By doing so, 80 percent of carbon emissions would be reduced when the goal approaches. Along with DTE Energy, these services are looking to move away from coal as the primary source of energy generation in Michigan.
Consumers Energy provides power to 60 percent of residents in the state. By 2040, they plan to run on 40 percent renewable sources such as solar and wind production. They do not include hydropower in that mix, which they will also be using, along with natural gas and improved efficiency methods.
"We believe that climate change is real and we can do our part by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and we also believe it doesn't have to cost more to do it," Consumers Energy president Patti Poppe told The Associated Press. "We believe we're going to be on the right side of history on this issue."
There’s already been a decrease in coal use at Consumers Energy. At the moment, the utility company gets 24 percent of its energy from coal-fired power plants and 10 percent from sustainable sources. Natural gas currently represents the highest source at 34 percent. Back in 2016, they closed down 7 of their 12 coal plants, which decreased their carbon emissions by 38 percent based on their levels from eight years prior.
Consumers Energy will also be helping the environment in other areas besides greenhouse gas emissions. They’re launching a five-year plan to save one billion gallons of water, reducing 35 percent of waste that goes to landfills, and restoring 5,000 acres of land.
DTE Energy announced their commitment last May, also closing down their coal-fired power plants by 2040. They’re looking to add six gigawatts of renewable capacity from wind turbines and solar panels, which would represent 60 percent of their needs. The rest of the production would come from natural gas.
Local environmental groups were happy the utility companies have made a commitment into the renewable energy sector. Kate Madigan, energy policy specialist with the Michigan Environmental Council, believes “the tide is turning” and hopes they “can get there even faster.” Margrethe Kearney, with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, would like to see the utilities commit to more renewables, noting that “gas prices are unpredictable.”
Regardless of how big the investment is, Michigan’s biggest utility companies are clearly moving away from fossil fuels. It’s a movement that continues worldwide, from a top coal producer shutting down 37 plants in India to France announcing all of their facilities will close by 2021.
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