Column: Michigan deserves clean energy

Patti Poppe

Whether it’s water rushing over our hydroelectric dams, the sun shining on a summer afternoon, or the wind blowing through the countryside, Consumers Energy has long relied on our state’s clean natural resources to power the communities, homes and businesses we serve.

We have a track record of doing more than is required to ensure Michigan’s air, water and land are cleaner for future generations to enjoy.

For years, we’ve worked to cut emissions, save water and use more renewable energy to serve our customers. In fact, we’ve reduced our carbon emissions by 38 percent, reduced our water usage by 35 percent and avoided over one million cubic yards of landfill disposal. Even so, we are not satisfied.

That’s why I’m so proud about the recent announcement of the next phase of our company’s commitment to the planet and clean energy in Michigan. By 2040, we plan to:

■ Reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent.

■ Stop using coal to generate electricity.

■ Tap renewable sources and energy storage for 40 percent of the electricity we supply to customers.

We’ve also set new short-term goals to use less water, reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills and continue to protect and enhance Michigan’s land. We’re acting now because we’re listening to the Michigan residents we serve.

It’s no longer a real question whether climate change is happening, and many people are urging us to reduce our use of fossil fuels even more for the good of the planet. As Michigan’s largest energy provider, we’re in a unique position to make a measurable impact to benefit people and the planet, too.

As we move toward more renewable fuel sources that emit zero carbon emissions, we’re still looking out for our customers’ other interests. The price of wind and solar energy has fallen significantly over the last decade, removing an important obstacle to affordability. Today we can choose between renewables and fossil fuels mostly on the question of which does the most good.

Moving toward renewable energy will provide other benefits for Michigan. Building and operating more wind farms and solar power plants will create jobs. Just as important, these goals should help attract large employers to Michigan. They show our state has the answers for employers that are committed to sustainability and corporate responsibility.

Our purpose is world-class performance delivering hometown service. To us, world-class means looking at the world through a broader lens. We’re determined to do what’s right, not merely what’s required, to protect the planet.

By 2040, we plan to tap renewable sources and energy storage for 40 percent of the electricity we supply to customers. This continues an approach that we’ve taken over the past decade, from opening our two wind farms and two West Michigan solar plants to closing seven of our 12 coal-fired plants in 2016. As a result, Newsweek recently placed our company in the top 10 nationally and No. 1 in Michigan for its annual Green Rankings.

The details of our strategy will begin to take shape this summer when we file an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Michigan Public Service Commission in Lansing.

The IRP will provide a valuable tool for our major decisions and help lay the foundation for achieving our Clean Energy Breakthrough Goals.

We’re grateful for the public’s input on our plans gathered at open houses in Grand Rapids and East Lansing.

We’re viewing the way we do business through a new lens that puts people, the planet and Michigan’s prosperity front and center. We look forward to not only establishing, but also reaching, our new targets to power Michigan with clean energy.

Patti Poppe is president and CEO of Consumers Energy.