Michigan Leading the Way in Clean Energy

State’s energy companies full-steam ahead on renewable efforts


In 2008, Michigan introduced the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act that requires the state’s investor-owned utilities, alternative retail suppliers, electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities to generate 15% of their retail electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2021. Michigan’s two biggest energy providers are on track to not only meet these requirements, but they’re also surpassing them.

Through renewable energy efforts, reduction of coal and carbon emissions and innovative energy solutions, the Lansing Board of Water and Light and Consumer’s Energy are working to make Michigan a leader in clean energy. 

In 2007, BWL became the first utility in the state of Michigan to adopt a renewable energy portfolio. Dick Peffley, general manager, said BWL decided to take this step when it looked at the environment and the amount of coal and energy it was using.

“We wanted to cut back but also help customers control costs.”

BWL is committed not only to cutting costs for customers but to providing 30% clean energy by 2020 and 40% by 2030. In addition, it will also cease coal generation in Lansing and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the end of 2025. According to Peffley, all of the goals are on track to be met and it is ahead of schedule on its 2025 goal.

BWL’s energy goals are being met by a combination of renewable energy, like wind and solar, and implementing new technologies that help customers manage their energy needs.

The customer’s role in managing energy usage and controlling costs is huge and they play a key part not only for BWL but for Michigan’s other energy leader, Consumer’s Energy. Consumer’s also has big goals when it comes to clean energy and, like with BWL, the consumer is at the center of those plans.

“A lot of people feel helpless when it comes to climate change,” said Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumer’s Energy. “But the message we want to send is that there is something we can do that is very meaningful and powerful.”

Both companies are encouraging customers to upgrade their lighting, insulate their homes, use smart thermostats and use their appliances during nonpeak energy times.

Beyond consumer-centered programs, Consumer’s is also turning to wind and solar energy to meet big clean energy goals. According to Poppe, Consumer’s is on track to eliminate coal, reduce carbon emissions by over 90% and meet customers’ future electricity needs with 90% clean energy resources by 2040.

“We’ve issued our first request for proposals on solar installations … we will see how the marketplace delivers. It’s a big shift to do an open call for proposals, and promise the panels will be built by someone other than us but it fits the market dynamics.”

Both companies are looking to wind energy to fulfill and surpass the state energy law, and Peffley said this has offered a bit of a challenge.

“People like the idea of wind and solar energy but not in their backyard.” Finding locations for new energy conductors was a challenge, but through cooperation and education, Peffley said BWL is still ahead of its 2020 goal.

Education is key for both companies.

“We need to suspend people’s belief that there is nothing they can do,” said Poppe.

This means making customers aware of the programs it offers. “Our programs have been in full swing for 10 years and 46% of people still don’t know we do this.”

BWL conducts energy audits and Consumer’s offers subscriptions to solar blocks. Both companies offer energy monitoring programs utilizing technologies such as smartphones and apps.

“We can handle the big stuff, like the solar panels and closing coal plants,” Poppe said. “But we can’t help unless people take action.”

You can learn more about each company’s plan for a cleaner future on their websites.  

Allison Spooner

Allison Spooner

Allison Spooner is a writer, storyteller, copywriter, marketing content creator and communicator. She uses her communication and creative writing skills to articulate the stories and messages that businesses can't express themselves. She has been telling the stories of businesses across the state of Michigan for 10 years. You can find both her professional and her creative writing on her website, allisonspoonerwriter.com and follow her musings on Twitter @allyspoon

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