At Consumers Energy, we’re dedicated to transforming our operations to create a brighter energy future that protects the environment and preserves our beautiful state of Michigan.
We have the responsibility to provide energy services to 6.8 million people in the state, including over 1.8 million homes and businesses. We take the responsibility to provide reliable service seriously. We also take our commitment to protecting the lakes, fields and forests that make up Michigan’s environment seriously.
The combination of these responsibilities is what led to the creation of our Clean Energy Plan, which documents how we will make the shift into renewable energy for Michigan while working to provide world-class, reliable service. In the coming years, this plan will serve as a guide as we move away from fossil fuels and revolutionize renewable energy in Michigan.
We know our clean energy future is dependent on continued improvements in reliability and affordability for Michiganders. As we navigate this change together, our plan provides flexibility to meet the ever-changing energy landscape – meeting our customers’ energy needs with power that’s clean and made in Michigan, and helping them make the transition to the next generation of clean, emissions-free electric vehicles.
Our Clean Energy Plan is a 20-year strategic road map transforming our operations to meet Michigan’s energy needs while protecting the environment. One of our first goals is to be among the first energy companies in the nation to go coal-free by 2025, when we have proposed to retire our final coal plants.
This step alone will improve air quality, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by 60% and avoid more than 220 billion gallons of water usage from our system each year. We will be replacing our energy sources with cleaner energy, with the goal of having 90% of our energy coming directly from renewable resources such as wind, solar and hydro power by 2040. In solar energy alone, we will add around 8,000 megawatts to power homes and businesses across Michigan. 2025 is just around the corner and 8,000MW won’t be built overnight, which is why we’re not switching directly from coal to mostly renewables in 2025 – our plan includes a proposal to purchase four existing Michigan-based natural gas generation plants to coincide with the retirements of our coal plants at Karn and Campbell. These additional natural gas plants, along with our existing Zeeland and Jackson natural gas plants, and renewables will serve Michigan’s needs as we scale our renewable generation portfolio through 2040.
The Clean Energy Plan also includes the modernization of our power grid and increased battery storage to help stabilize customer demand for electricity and only deliver the exact energy the state needs. With our flexible strategy, we can respond to emerging needs, adapt to changes and embrace innovative technologies.
In February 2021, we started producing clean, renewable electricity from our fourth major wind farm development, Crescent Wind in Hillsdale County. Previously, Gratiot Farms Wind Project went online in late 2020 to join Lake Winds® Energy Park and Cross Winds® Energy Park to produce clean energy for our Michigan residents.
Combined, our four Consumers Energy wind farms can produce enough clean, renewable energy to power about 249,600 households.
This is only the beginning of our journey into renewable energy. With the Clean Energy Plan, we are actively working to increase our generation of clean energy for homes and businesses.
Solar is increasingly cost competitive compared to other fuel sources, which is why adding an additional 8,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar power by 2040 is such a vital part of our plan. Our first big push is adding 1,100MW to come online by 2024 to help supply the power grid. Since 2016, existing Solar Gardens facilities have generated over 32,000 megawatt-hours of electricity – avoiding enough emissions to produce about the same environmental benefit as more than 380,000 tree seedlings growing and sequestering carbon for 10 years. Our Solar Gardens are community solar projects that customers can subscribe to, becoming early adopters of renewable energy without the expense or burden of installing solar panels on their home or business.
Entry into rooftop solar can be cost-prohibitive or unavailable to many customers. That's why we're focused on transitioning our overall portfolio to the approach outlined in our Clean Energy Plan which focuses on competitively bid, utility scale solar resources which are a far better value for our customers than rooftop installations. For those still interested in their own solar generation, we offer a distributed generation program.
As a bonus, solar is built locally and scalable, meaning we can be more agile in our planning to serve the power needs of Michigan.
Solar sites are also giving second chances to previously abandoned land. For example, an old Cadillac plant was redeveloped to house 1,752 solar panels across 2.77 acres of repurposed brownfield land.
Oh, and for the days when the sun doesn’t shine? Not to worry—we will store solar generated electricity in batteries or utilize capacity from our natural gas plants and use it when solar production needs help meeting demand.
One of our oldest environmental efforts started back in 1906 when we began building hydroelectric plants that operated along five rivers and throughout the state. Our 13 hydroelectric plants are still up and running at the dams on Michigan rivers.
A marvel of modern engineering, the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant is a significantly larger hydroelectric plant situated on the shore of Lake Michigan. Often referred to as one of the “world’s largest electric batteries”, the plant has been producing clean and reliable power since its beginning in 1973. Its simple technology allows the plant to respond quickly to the highs and lows of Michigan’s energy demand. Thanks to the size of the plant, it helps us keep rates low by avoiding expensive market prices when electricity demand is high.
A new area we are investing in as part of our plan is the expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure to support another energy transformation goal and protect the planet.
Electric vehicles (EVs) grew by nearly 60% in Michigan last year. Manufacturers are experiencing the pressure of competition, meaning new models are continuously being released as demand rises and more incentives become available. We account for EV growth as part of our Clean Energy Plan and are excited to have the capacity to support this transformation while shifting to cleaner sources of energy generation.
Currently, we are powering around 15,000 EVs, but by 2030 we plan to be powering over one million EVs on Michigan roads in our service territory by installing public charging stations around the state and offering rebates and special rates for at-home charging.
Through our Clean Energy Plan, we are promoting a safer environment by creating healthier air and water while building a more resilient infrastructure. Simultaneously, we are providing a more reliable service thanks to community-based generation that reduces distribution distance. Battery storage will provide backup and our investments in smarter grids will help prevent outages before they even hit your home or business – and reduce the duration when they do occur.
While developing the Clean Energy Plan, we wanted to stay focused on our commitments for the last 135 years – safety, affordability and reliability. We are always looking forward, adopting technology early and searching for ways to invest in the short and long term. We want to create a power grid that can adapt to the changes happening around us without creating a barrier to our customers.
Lately, we've been asking customers to join us in developing better energy habits to save money. It may seem counterintuitive for us to sell less of our product, but we believe everyone should only pay for what they need - and not for wasted energy they don't. With every Michigander making small changes, together we can levelize peak days and build only what's needed to power our lives 365 days a year - not for a few hours in July.
Second, we plan to keep demand response at the forefront of our operations and help customers reduce electric or natural gas during times of peak demand. With current generation sources, we have what we need today to support all of our customers on peak days. But it’s more expensive to buy extra fossil fuels, and the cost to build new units to meet demand in the future is more expensive than the cost of the Clean Energy Plan. Implementing demand response programs now will help avoid this unnecessary, expensive investment – saving you even more in the long run.
Finally, we will implement demand management tools for customer use, such as an energy waste reduction program. This will give customers more control over their energy bills and empower them to save energy and money over the long term.
The shift to renewable energy is necessary to protect Michigan’s environment. All of these factors are critical components to Michigan’s long-term sustainability and preservation of the lakes, beaches, rivers and forests we all hold so dear. Our Clean Energy Plan ensures our ability to provide reliable and affordable energy to customers throughout the shift.
One step at a time we are revolutionizing renewable energy to better the lives of our neighbors.
We are committed to becoming a force of change for Michigan - from the fundamentals to the future. While we make the big changes, learn how you can join with small ones of your own. Visit ConsumersEnergy.com/change to get started.