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DTE Energy

DTE Energy says it is committing to achieve net carbon neutrality by the year 2050.

The term, "net carbon neutrality," means reducing carbon emissions, along with offsetting emissions by supporting outside carbon reduction efforts, in order to achieve a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions attributable to the utility.

Trevor Lauer, president and chief operating officer for DTE Electric, says the path to 100% carbon neutrality will require utilization of technologies that are not currently fully developed.

three books with an apple on top, a few crayons, and some ABC blocks sit on top of a wood desk
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Today on Stateside, how "energy resilient" is Michigan? We talk to the chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission about a newly-released assessment of the state's energy infrastructure. Plus, the rise and fall of a 19th century Chrsitian utopian society in Michigan's Thumb region. 

An e-cigarette sits on a table with smoke around it
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Today on Stateside, Governor Whitmer issued emergency rules making Michigan the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which are popular among teenagers. Plus, the story of a Bay City teacher who took a trip over Niagra Falls. 

led light bulbs on a light blue background
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Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe pulled no punches at a kickoff event for the utility's campaign to encourage customers to use less energy in the war against climate change.

"I cannot stress firmly enough that we are in a crisis and must take action right now," she said.  "We can't do this ourselves, we need your help."

Consumers Energy

An advocacy group says Michigan utilities aren't meeting the business demand for renewables.

Laura Sherman is president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.

She says Michigan utilities charge too much for their voluntary renewable energy programs. She says the programs aren't adequately recognizing that wind and solar are among the cheapest sources of electricity right now.

"It's a markup right now," says Sherman. "If it is the cheapest, then the customers should be reaping the benefit of that cheaper energy, long term."

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

It appears few Michiganders who spent the weekend without electricity will be able to apply for a credit on their next utility bill.

More than 600,000 DTE and Consumers Energy customers spent part of the past few days in the dark after strong storms knocked out their power. Both utilities expect to restore electricity to most, if not all, of their affected customers by late Tuesday or Wednesday.

Consumers Energy / via Michigan Public Service Commission

The Michigan Public Service Commission is demanding Consumers Energy take more action to prevent a possible repeat of a fire last January.

That fire broke out at the utility’s Ray Township compressor station on Jan. 31, during frigid temperatures at the height of the polar vortex.

solar panels on roof of home
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In May, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved a new, so-called "inflow/outflow" model for  rooftop solar rates, replacing the former "net metering" scheme.

Solar installation companies say the new rates are slowing demand for rooftop solar already.

Under net metering, people would get a credit for excess energy they put onto the grid, equal to the rate they were being charged for using their utility's electricity.

windmill in field
cwwycoff1 / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Xcel Energy has reached a settlement with environmental groups that puts it a step further on its ambitious path to zero carbon emissions by 2050.  

Xcel Energy's Northern Michigan Power division provides electricity to 9,000 customers in Michigan. 

The utility also serves customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico.

Mark Stoering, President of Xcel Energy - Michigan and Wisconsin, says the utility proposes to fast-track the retirement of Xcel's remaining coal-burning power plants by 2030. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids will run an Emergency Operations Center through the weekend to manage the response to this week’s storms.

Areas in and around Grand Rapids took the brunt of the power outages caused by ice storms that swept through the area on Wednesday and Thursday.

Grand Rapids fire chief John Lehman says at the peak of the outages, 56,000 residents in Grand Rapids were without power – that’s about a quarter of the city’s entire population.

Those numbers included retirement homes in the city.

Michael Mazengarb / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Circuit West, an experimental green energy development in Grand Rapids, now has an energy storage component.  

Circuit West is described by developers as "a 13-block hub of innovative electricity generation, distribution and storage and energy efficient building construction."

The storage is in the form of large cabinet-sized batteries that can store more than an hour's worth of the energy being produced by existing solar panels.

Roger Lin is with NEC Energy Solutions, which is providing the batteries for the pilot project with Consumers Energy.

CEME

Consumers Energy has agreed to stop giving money to non-profit political advocacy groups for two years, under the terms of a rate case settlement agreement with the Michigan Public Service Commission.

That's after the state's largest utility gave more than $43 million between 2014 and 2017 to a controversial dark money PAC to oppose issues and defeat political candidates it did not like.  

Hemlock Semiconductor

 

Governor Snyder has signed a bill that will give one Michigan company a break on its electricity bills from Consumers Energy.

Hemlock Semiconductor near Saginaw makes parts for solar panels.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Tens of thousands of people in northern Lower Michigan are still waiting to get their electricity turned back on.

Severe storms Tuesday night into Wednesday knocked out power to more than 150,000 Consumers Energy and Great Lakes Energy Cooperative customers.

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MaxPixel

A wave of thunderstorms with strong winds caused widespread power outages and scattered damage across western and northern Michigan.

The National Weather Service reports Tuesday night's storms had wind gusts reaching 50 mph and dumped up to 3 inches of rain in the Grand Rapids area.

power lines in trees
Steffan Vilcans / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Customers who rely on alternative electricity providers are breathing a sigh of relief.  That's after state regulators set a rule that will likely let the providers keep operating at least through 2023, according to the Alliance for Michigan Energy Consumers.

Alternative electric companies, also known as electric choice, can serve up to 10% of DTE Energy and Consumers Energy customers.  The lower rates offered by electric choice companies attract customers with big electric bills like school districts. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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