Consumers Energy to eliminate carbon footprint by 2040

Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe | Andrew Roth

Consumers Energy, the state’s largest energy provider, has a new, ambitious goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The public utility in 2019 rolled out its “Clean Energy Plan,” which details how it expects to meet the state’s natural gas and electricity needs through the next two decades. Consumers Energy announced Monday that this plan sets the stage for its next step: entirely eliminating the impact of carbon emissions the utility creates through energy generation by 2040.

Previously, Consumers had planned to achieve a 90% reduction of carbon emissions by then.

“Consumers Energy is proud to take a stand for Michigan and for the planet. We are committed to take actions that eliminate our carbon footprint and do our part to combat climate change,” said Patti Poppe, Consumers Energy’s president and chief executive officer.

“Our Clean Energy Plan already is focused on protecting the planet, and our net zero pledge takes that commitment to the next level.”

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Consumers Energy serves 6.7 million customers around Michigan. As part of its 20-year clean energy plan, the utility expects to eliminate coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel sources by embracing renewable energy and promoting energy efficiency among customers. 

The announcement adds that Consumers Energy plans to explore more strategies, technologies and policy solutions to offset further emissions in order to reach the net zero goal. Carbon sequestration, landfill methane capture and large-scale tree planting are all listed as possible strategies to aid in this effort.

“We often say that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” Poppe said. “Consumers Energy is proud to do our part to protect the planet with our new goal, and we look forward to working with Michigan residents to help them understand and do their part so we can accomplish great things together.”

In a series of press releases following Monday’s announcement, leaders of environmental and health groups praised Consumers Energy’s plans, while drawing a sharp contrast with the efforts of the Detroit-based public utility DTE Energy.

“We appreciate Consumers Energy’s vision to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, especially as DTE Energy continues to invest in dirty coal and gas plants that pollute our state and change our climate,” said Kate Madigan, director of Michigan Climate Action Network. “Climate change affects virtually every aspect of our lives, including our health, economy and Great Lakes, and a rapid and just transition to clean energy is critical to avoid the worsening impacts of our overheating climate.”

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DTE’s 15-year energy resource plan, submitted last summer to a state regulatory body, was widely criticized by pro-clean energy organizations and Michigan residents who say the utility has not gone far enough to transition away from fossil fuel sources. The proposal was rejected last week; DTE has until March 26 to submit a revised plan.

Kindra Weid, a nurse and coalition coordinator of MI Air MI Health, described Consumers Energy’s efforts as a “breath of fresh air,” “in contrast to DTE Energy’s deeply flawed long-term energy plan.”

“By achieving net zero carbon emissions, Consumers Energy will help combat climate change and improve air quality and public health in Michigan,” Weid said.

Representatives from the Ecology Center and the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America Michigan Chapter also expressed their support of the plan, which they said is a bold step that will benefit the climate and the health of Michiganders.