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Advocates want Consumers Energy to switch to renewable energy faster and not invest in fossil fuel burning power plants

Consumers Energy headquarters in Jackson, Michigan.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Consumers Energy headquarters in Jackson, Michigan.

The Michigan Public Service Commission is looking over a 15 year plan from Consumers Energy known as an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). An advocacy group wants that plan to include a faster switch to renewable energy.

The MI Future, MI Power group has a list of concerns, but top of the list is treating the climate crisis like an emergency.

In its plan, Consumers plans to shut down all coal-burning power plants by 2025 and replace some of them with natural gas plants which emit lower amounts of greenhouse gasses.

“We are glad that Consumers Energy is proposing to close some coal power plants. We are always in favor of that, but they are proposing to buy gas power plants, methane gas power plants, which would suck us into a 15-Year dependence on gas,” said Sergio Cira-Reyes with Urban Core Collective in Grand Rapids, one of the groups behind the MI Future, MI Power campaign.

“We would like for them to switch directly to wind and solar, which are renewables, and frankly, it's the best course of action given the climate crisis that we're in right now,” he added.

On Wednesday, the group intends to hand deliver to Consumers Energy thousands of public comments that have already been submitted to the Public Service Commission.

MI Future, MI Power says the action is aimed at informing people that they have the right and the power to weigh in on how Consumers Energy will be using ratepayers money and affecting public health over the next 15 years.

Besides a quick switch to renewable energy, the group is calling for Consumers Energy customers to be automatically compensated for power outages, make the utility pay for poor performance, and it wants the Michigan Public Service Commission to consider the economic costs of the health impact caused by burning fossil fuels as it reviews the IRP.

Consumers Energy’s 15 year plan calls for reducing carbon emissions by about 60 percent by 2025, enhancing its commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

Consumers is in the process of buying existing natural gas-powered power plants to maintain the base load of power. The plan includes using natural gas peaker plants that can be turned on when additional power is needed because of high demand. It is also plans to triple its use of renewable energy.

The MI Future, MI Power group is opposed to Consumers buying a natural gas plant in Dearborn. They’re concerned it will be expanded and create more pollution for Dearborn residents. Instead, it wants Consumers Energy to support more community-based clean energy as a reliability measure and not invest in fossil fuel power generation.

Consumers Energy is a corporate supporter of Michigan Radio.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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