Lily Bohlke, Producer – Public News Servicel
Regulators have approved a plan from Michigan’s largest utility to stop burning coal to generate energy by 2025.
Consumers Energy aims to get more than 60% of its energy from renewable sources by 2040, and to tap at least 8,000 megawatts of solar power by then.
Consumers Energy Media Relations Manager Brian Wheeler said they’ve already started putting the word out to communities, farmers and landowners that they’re looking for sites to develop new solar projects.
While concerns about renewable energy often cite cost, Wheeler said once the company closes its coal plants, it’s expected that customers will actually see savings.
“It used to be seen that you can either have energy that was ‘dirty and cheap,’ like with coal, or that renewables would be clean, but also expensive,” said Wheeler. “That equation has really changed. And so now, we’re seeing that we can add renewables and still keep costs down for our customers.”
Opponents of the company’s Clean Energy Plan say solar and wind are not reliable enough sources for high demand in the state, and that losing coal may exacerbate issues with power outages and grid problems.
Wheeler said now that Michigan has entered the summer months, it’s important for the public to be involved in keeping the power grid running smoothly. He urged folks to shift the times of the day they run appliances and other energy uses away from the peak summer afternoons.
“That actually has a benefit to your bill,” said Wheeler, “but also to the grid, because we’re not building power plants just for a few hot summer days. So, we really want people to be involved. We want people to be thinking about their own energy usage, and understand that they take a role when it comes to fighting climate change.”
Both Consumers Energy and the state’s other utility, DTE Energy, have payment assistance programs to support households having trouble paying their utility bills. Wheeler notes they can reach out to the company directly or call 211 to get help connecting.