April 20, 2022
Lansing, MI — Today, Consumers Energy, an investor-owned utility in Michigan that provides energy to 67% of the state, reached a proposed settlement agreement on its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) case, U-21090. Signatories to the agreement include Vote Solar, Union of Concerned Scientists, Ecology Center, and Environmental Law and Policy Center.
Under the terms of the agreement, Consumers Energy agrees to several meaningful clean energy and environmental justice commitments, including a guarantee that the company will keep a promise made in June 2021 to retire all coal plants by 2025. Additionally, the settlement precludes the utility from purchasing the Dearborn Industrial Generation (DIG) gas plant as part of this plan. DIG contributes high levels of toxic air pollution in an already overburdened environmental justice community.
The settlement agreement also establishes improvements for future energy resource plans. Consumers will include distributed energy resources like solar in future resource planning, and will use the Michigan Environmental Justice Screen as a tool to guide resource decisions. Consumers also agrees to more and better engagement about resource planning with communities in its service territory.
“Consumers’ commitment to modeling distributed generation as a resource is a big deal for the state’s clean energy future,” says Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Distributed solar has a major role to play in an equitable energy transition, and it’s incredibly exciting to see Consumers recognize that.”
“We are encouraged by Consumer Energy’s agreement. By modifying its resource plan to better serve Michigan families and protect our environment, Consumers demonstrated it’s commitment to the people and communities they serve,” says Will Kenworthy, Midwest Regulatory Director at Vote Solar. “This decision is vital to address the climate crises and the health impacts of dirty energy generation. We look forward to future progress Consumers makes towards a carbon-free future.”
“Today’s agreement shows how Michigan’s utilities can accelerate plans to stop burning coal, ramp up renewable resources like solar, and avoid constructing new gas-fired power plants,” said James Gignac, Senior Midwest Energy Analyst with Union of Concerned Scientists. “New research by the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition and Union of Concerned Scientists shows the state can achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035 with tremendous health and economic benefits. Consumers’ plan is a strong start toward a cleaner, more equitable electricity system to power Michigan’s decarbonized economy with benefits for all communities.”
Consumers’ original 15-year resource plan was widely criticized by clean energy and environmental advocates for its proposed purchase of four fossil fuel gas plants, and for its failure to recognize the value of distributed energy resources like rooftop and community solar. Thousands of Michigan residents engaged in the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) preceding by providing written comments, speaking at public hearings, and speaking out on social media.
“We’re so thankful to everyone who spoke up for a fossil-free Michigan,” says Charles Griffith, Climate & Energy Program Director at the Ecology Center. “This level of engagement makes it clear that Michiganders are ready to move further and faster toward a resilient, clean energy future that prioritizes environmental justice.”
The settlement will now be presented to the MPSC for approval. The next MPSC meeting is scheduled for April 25th, but there is no confirmation that the settlement will be presented then.