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Renewable energy supporters want public hearings on Consumers Energy's proposed 15-year plan

ITC Michigan

A coalition of groups is asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to schedule public hearings on Consumers Energy's proposed 15-year plan, known as an Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP.

The plan lays out how the utility will maintain reliability while reducing emissions from its operations.

Bill Wood is Executive Director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. He noted Consumers plans to shut down all its coal plants by 2024, which is good. But it's switching to natural gas to take coal's place.

And Wood said, while the utility does plan to boost its reliance on renewable energy sources, it's not enough.

"I don't think it's a forward thinking or visionary approach," said Wood. "And I really do think maybe more demand from people in the community about accelerating the renewables timeline, hopefully Consumers would listen to that."

A public hearing held in Detroit in 2019 on DTE Energy's 15-year proposed plan drew a standing-room only crowd of people, the overwhelming majority of whom criticized that utility's inadequate and slow approach to adding solar, investing in energy efficiency, and closing coal plants.

The Michigan Public Service Commission subsequently sent DTE Energy back to the drawing board on several of those aspects of the plan before approving it after changes were made.

Wood says Consumers Energy's proposal may not face the same degree of disapproval, but he thinks many people are very concerned about the pace of the response to climate change by Michigan's regulated utilities. 

"The decisions that are being made far off in a board room somewhere, in the case of a utility like Consumers or DTE by investors, whose role is to make money, you've got people now saying we don't like the way the decisions are made anymore."

Utility spokeswoman Katie Carey said the utility is proud to be one of the first in the nation that will end coal use. She said in a statement, "Our Clean Energy Plan relies primarily on adding renewable energy sources and helping customers reduce energy waste, and we look forward to working with the Michigan Public Service Commission as it reviews our proposal. We welcome public input on our plan which was why we hosted four widely promoted virtual public forums to give stakeholders an opportunity to provide input.”

Editor's note: Consumers Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

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Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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