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Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy plans to dramatically increase its use of solar energy by the year 2040.

It's a big part of the utility's first long-term energy plan, required by Michigan's new energy law.

CEO Patti Poppe says solar is clean energy, and the cost of providing it is likely to come down by 35% by 2040.

And she says solar is one of the best options for providing electricity at times of peak demand.

wikimedia commons

In the past four years, Consumers Energy gave $43 million to a political lobbying group, Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy, according to research by the Energy and Policy Institute.

That's a huge sum for a utility to spend on political activity -- as much as the entire electric utility industry spent on federal campaigns since 2015.

utility lines and power plant
Notorious4Life / Wikimedia Commons

A quarter of a million DTE Energy customers in Metro Detroit are still without power after the weekend ice storm.

That's down from 370,000. The company says it expects 90 percent of its customers to have power restored by the end of the day tomorrow.

Consumers Energy says about 8,000 customers still have no power. Most of them are south and west of Lansing.

Cypress Creek Renewables

Cypress Creek Renewables has been lining up farmland in Michigan for more than a year now.

The object? Leases for enough land to install several hundred megawatts worth of new, emissions-free solar projects. Combined, that would equal the electricity output of a small coal-fired power plant.

But a bill introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., could put a halt to those plans, as well as the plans of other renewable energy companies that want to set up shop in Michigan and states across the nation.

Modernizing PURPA, or gutting it?

Saginaw Future Inc. / Flickr - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Consumers Energy wants to stop buying renewable energy from outside sources.

Under the federal Public Utilities Regulator Policy Act (PURPA), state regulators can encourage more renewable energy by requiring utilities to purchase electricity generated by solar, wind, biomass, or other renewable sources at the same rate it would cost the utility to make it.

That helps Michigan to be less dependent on fossil fuels, and supports development of renewable energy sources.

Solar panels
Michael Mazengarb / Flickr

Consumers Energy plans to become more environmentally friendly – while keeping customer bills stable.

The company rolled out its “Clean Energy Breakthrough Goal” Monday. It plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% and use zero coal by 2040. The company also plans to have more than 40% of its energy come from renewable sources and energy storage by that same deadline.

“In the past, people believed that we had to choose between affordable and clean energy,” said Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe. “We don’t subscribe to that sucker’s choice.”

Wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A group of environmentalists wants Michigan's utility companies to use 30 percent renewable energy by 2030. The wind and solar advocates have started a campaign to get their proposal on the 2018 statewide ballot. 

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has been following the story. She joined "Morning Edition" host Doug Tribou to discuss the ballot initiative and its chances of becoming law. 


Christoper Sessums / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The corporate tax rate went from 35% to 21% on January 1.  That means a windfall for the state's utilities. 

But because they are regulated by the government, DTE Energy, Consumers Energy and other regulated utilities will be required to pass the savings on to ratepayers. 

DTE says the tax cut will save it about $190 million a year, and Consumers Energy says it will save a similar amount, about $200 million. 

utility pole
Wikimedia Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Energy companies in Michigan are likely to receive massive tax cuts thanks to the new federal tax overhaul. That means customers could eventually see lower electric and gas bills.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Public Service Commission acted appropriately when it signed off on a 2015 rate hike for Consumers Energy customers, the Michigan Court of Appeals said in a ruling this week.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and groups representing business and residential Consumers customers sued to overturn the new rates.

They said Consumers didn’t make a strong enough case for the 10.3% rate hike.

Wealthy benefit most from Michigan’s energy savings plans, study finds

Dec 14, 2017
Consumers Energy's Karn peaker plant
Bridge Magazine

Michigan utilities spend tens of millions of dollars each year on rebates, energy audits, and other programs to help customers cut their energy bills.

Most of that spending isn’t helping the customers who could use the savings the most, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan.

The study from the school’s Urban Energy Justice Lab found energy efficiency programs at Michigan’s two largest utilities disproportionately benefit wealthier ratepayers.

Consumers Energy

The Michigan Public Service Commission has set new "avoided cost" rates for small, renewable energy companies that provide electricity to Consumers Energy.

The rates compensate the producers for the electricity they provide, which allows Consumers Energy to "avoid" having to produce that amount of energy itself.

The new rates are seen as deeply unfair by some types of renewable energy producers, like hydro and waste-to-energy.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A major project to remove century old contamination from the Flint River is moving into its final phase.

Last week, crews finished dredging part of the Flint River bottom to remove the last remnants of coal tar from the sediment. The coal tar came from a coal gasification plant that shut down in the 1920s.

pixabay

The state's utility regulator says it will require electricity providers that compete with DTE Energy and Consumers Energy to generate some of their power in Michigan, but the requirement will be implemented after 2021.

The so-called "Local Clearing Requirement (LCR)" is in addition to the requirement in the state's new energy law that those providers also prove they have access to their own generation capacity four years out.  That means they can no longer rely largely on buying electricity at auction from year-to-year to serve customers.

power lines
Stefan Andrej Shambora / Flickr Creative Commons / HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

The Michigan Public Service Commission is considering a rule that opponents say would dramatically raise electricity rates for schools, universities and businesses, as well as potentially eliminate competition for Michigan’s two major utilities.

The rule would require electricity providers that compete with DTE Energy and Consumers Energy to supply their customers with energy generated within Michigan — instead of from a larger market.

The Ambassador Bridge
cmh2315fl / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge scored a big victory this week. The Canadian government has finally given the Detroit International Bridge Company permission to build a new bridge next to the Ambassador, just a couple of miles upriver from the site of the publicly funded Gordie Howe International Bridge project. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about hurdles the DIBC still needs to clear before the new span can move forward.  

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A major dredging project in the Flint River remains on schedule.

Consumers Energy is paying to remove tons of coal tar waste along a third of a mile stretch of the river in downtown Flint. The coal tar waste is the legacy of a gasification plant that closed almost a century ago. 

Consumers spokesman Kevin Keane says crews recently started using a so-called “moon pool” as part of the dredging work.

“The moon pool is used to contain excavations in the river and it collects sheen and sediments that otherwise might travel over the dam,” says Keane.

Palace Entertainment Vice Chairman Arn Tellem (left) and CMS President Patti Poppe (right) hand $1 million checks to Community Foundation President Isaiah Oliver.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Starting in 2018, Flint high school students will get some help to pay for college.

The Consumers Energy Foundation and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores are pledging $1 million each to start of Flint Promise program.  The Promise is patterned after similar college scholarship programs in other Michigan cities.

Thunderstorm over Lake Michigan.
Pete / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Thunderstorms packing winds exceeding 60 mph caused damage across Michigan, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers.

Trees and power lines were knocked down by the storms, which started Thursday night and continued Friday morning. Heavy rain and hail were reported in places. Consumers Energy says more than 130,000 homes and businesses it serves lost power.

Authorities say a 72-year-old man has died after a tree fell on a home in western Michigan while severe thunderstorms moved across the state.

Dredging the Flint River.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A century-old legacy of Flint’s industrial past is the focus of a major cleanup project this summer.

The Flint River is the main artery flowing through Flint’s industrial heart. For decades, from the late 1800’s and into the 1920’s, a gasification plant located along the river turned coal into much-needed natural gas.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A major river dredging project is nearly ready to begin in downtown Flint.

In about two weeks, crews will begin removing river sediment contaminated with coal tar from a section of the Flint River.   The coal tar was a by-product produced by a gas plant that was located along the river a century ago. Consumers Energy bought the plant in the 1920s.  The utility is handling the cleanup.

Michigan Radio

DTE Energy will close its last coal-burning plant by 2040, and reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

The decision comes in spite of the Trump administration's decision to slam the brakes on the Clean Power Plan, which would have allowed the U.S. EPA to regulate carbon emissions for the first time.

While the president and top administration officials continue denying the causal connection between carbon emissions from human activity and climate change, many corporations, including utilities like DTE, have accepted it as fact.

An electric car at a charging station
Wikimedia Commons

A lack of public charging stations is hurting the growth of electric cars in Michigan, according to some clean energy advocates.

Consumers Energy recently pulled the plug on a plan to set up hundreds of charging stations around Michigan. This was in response to pushback from competitors and consumers who don't want to pay for the system.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

People walking near part of the Flint River will see, and likely smell, a major dredging project this summer.

About a quarter mile segment of the Flint River will be dredged to remove tons of soil contaminated with coal tar from a gas plant that closed a century ago.    The plant operated from the mid-1800’s to the late 1920’s. Consumers Energy bought the old coal plant back in the 1920’s.   

Jim Innes with the MDEQ is the project manager.    He says coal tar does present a potential health issue for people.

Natural gas power plant in California
David Monniaux / Wikimedia Commons

Consumers Energy wants to buy a power plant fired by natural gas to help replace the energy produced by the Palisades nuclear plant.

Consumers hopes the state will approve an agreement it has with Entergy, which owns Palisades, to close the nuclear plant near South Haven in 2018. Michigan’s Public Service Commission has until August to make that call.

Consumers says it’ll save customers money by closing Palisades. But it has to figure out how to replace all that energy.

Consumers spokesman Brian Wheeler says natural gas could be a big part of the plan.

The Shockey family sits on their couch waiting to start a card game.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

About 400,000 homes and businesses in Michigan were still without electricity Friday night – after high winds knocked out power to much of the state on Wednesday.


steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A state commission has ordered Jackson-based Consumers Energy to pay a nearly $516,000 fine over billing rules violations.

The Michigan Public Service Commission announced the fine Thursday. It came about five months after the commission began an investigation into the utility's billing practices in Michigan.

The commission found that Consumers Energy failed to complete meter reads for more than 2,500 customers and determined that the company wasn't properly communicating how much time customers had to pay bills.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are expected to take up a major overhaul of Michigan’s energy policy as they return from their November break.  

The House and Senate are debating bills to change the state’s 10 percent renewable energy requirement on electric utilities. The bills’ sponsors insist they are just trying to make Michigan’s energy generation market competitive and fair by removing preferential treatment for particular sources of energy.    

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

With a contentious road funding deal finally done, state legislators have some big issues to tackle when they come back from vacation, such as modifying Michigan's energy laws.  

Consumers Energy launching new solar energy program

Aug 18, 2015
Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy is launching a new program that will let customers invest in renewable energy.

The new community solar program, called Solar Gardens, is the first of its kind for the company, according to Consumers.

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