Column: Chart a future for clean energy

Brandon Hofmeister

President Trump made headlines this week by following through on his campaign promise to start rolling back the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and related rules. The intent is clear: to reduce federal environmental regulations that are hastening the demise of coal-burning power plants across the U.S. The impact is cloudier: the rule’s review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and any potential legal challenges could take years to play out.

The uncertainty around these and other federal environmental rules reminds us of an important point those of us here in Michigan have been saying. Our state shouldn’t depend on Washington, D.C., to determine our energy future. Michigan needs its own game plan to ensure that homes and businesses have they energy they need, without worrying that changing regulations at the federal level will leave our state scrambling.

Michigan is not taking a wait-and-see approach. Our state’s energy policy doesn’t hinge on decisions from Washington, D.C. We are proceeding with plans to deliver energy reliably, safely, affordably and more cleanly than ever, and we won’t have to change course, regardless of the ultimate fate of the Clean Power Plan.

Last year, Consumers Energy closed seven of our coal-fired plants that were over 50 years old. While they delivered reliable and affordable energy to our customers for many years, they had reached the end of their useful lives and it was not economical to invest in upgrades needed to comply with the latest environmental regulations. Coal plants will continue to close across our state over the next decade, being replaced with cleaner fuels and meaningful efforts to help customers through energy efficiency programs.

Legislatively, bipartisan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder approved a major energy policy overhaul late last year that continues to put Michigan in the driver’s seat of it its own energy future. To ensure reliability, utilities will continue to demonstrate they have reliable long-term energy sources, as will energy marketers that serve up to 10 percent of Michigan’s power demand.

To promote affordability, the law includes strict new state oversights to ensure that future plants are competitively bid and in the best interests of our customers. The new law also enhances our very popular energy efficiency programs, which have already saved Consumers Energy customers over $1 billion on their energy bills since 2009 and reduce the need to build new power plants. To promote a transition to cleaner energy, the law also sets an achievable renewable energy target and requires providers to offer customers options for clean energy plans.

Let’s be proud that Michigan is making good on a comprehensive energy plan no matter what happens in the nation’s capital.

Brandon Hofmeister is Consumers Energy’s vice president of governmental and public affairs and a former energy law professor at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.