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Energy

Michigan’s mandates for renewable power and energy efficiency programs — first set in 2008 and slightly increased in 2016 — are scheduled to level off this year, although it may make little difference as the clean energy transition rolls on under market forces.

The transition away from large coal plants is reducing power-sector emissions while also changing the state’s physical landscape. Hulking, centralized power plants are leaving vacant footprints for redevelopment, including in Grand Haven with the recent demolition of the J.B. Sims Generating Station. Meanwhile, more distributed wind and solar projects are also raising key land-use questions and, at times, vocal opposition. Here’s a list of five large-scale generation projects planned around West Michigan. 

The ability to store intermittent renewable energy from wind and solar and capturing methane emissions from common waste streams to displace natural gas usage are two technologies poised to play a bigger role in a lower carbon future.

After production ground to a halt for Michigan oil and gas producers early in the COVID-19 pandemic, wells resumed activity later in the year for an improved short-term outlook.

The polar vortex of 2019 sent sustained extreme cold weather throughout the Great Lakes states, and in Michigan led to a strained electric and gas system. At the time, newly elected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency and launched a formal inquiry.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has again proposed legislation backed by clean energy advocates to expand utility programs for customers who generate their own solar power.

Michigan’s statewide building codes are set for an update this year. While there could be some new energy efficiency measures added, the codes are far behind where they should be to address climate change, according to some local design firms and environmental advocates.

Enbridge Inc. plans to continue operating Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac until a tunnel is completed to house the twin oil and natural gas liquids pipelines, a company official said in a letter Tuesday to the Whitmer administration.

A Michigan Public Service Commission order in a sweeping Consumers Energy rate case last month includes a three-year pilot program to study the roll-out of electrified commercial fleet vehicles.

GRAND RAPIDS — Randy Thelen describes the COVID-19 pandemic as an “inflection point” that can shift the course of economic development in West Michigan.

An electric grid engineering and energy storage expert will fill a new vacancy on the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order in late September creating a long-term climate change plan calling for the state to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Like many utilities, Consumers Energy is at the beginning of a decades-long transition that will fundamentally change the way electricity is generated. Utilities are gradually replacing large, centralized coal plants with more distributed resources like wind and solar along with battery storage. Consumers announced in February a target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Its broader long-term Clean Energy Plan was announced in 2019 under former CEO Patti Poppe, who this month started a new job leading California’s largest utility, PG&E. The reins have been passed to new President and CEO Garrick Rochow, who’s been with the Jackson-based utility for 16 years, most recently as senior vice president of operations.

State officials have announced a second round of grant funding totaling nearly $450,000 to support 18 new electric vehicle fast-charging stations along a coordinated network across Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is preparing to appoint her third member to the Michigan Public Service Commission in less than two years as another vacancy is expected by the end of the month.

In a move sought for years by environmental advocates, tribes, and hospitality and tourism businesses, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this month notified Enbridge Inc. that it would no longer have the state’s permission to operate the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Megan Sall Rydecki comes to Consumers Energy amid major short- and long-term changes at the state’s largest energy provider. Not only is the company in the early stages of a sweeping 20-year transition to clean energy, but its charismatic leader, President and CEO Patti Poppe, last week announced a new job leading California’s largest utility, PG&E Corp., effective Dec. 1.

JACKSON — Consumers Energy has agreed to expand a solar energy program that advocates say is crucial to continue the sector’s growth in Michigan.

JACKSON — CMS Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe is leaving the Jackson-based utility to lead San Francisco-based utility PG&E Corp., effective Dec. 1.

The state is moving to terminate an agreement that has allowed the Line 5 pipeline to operate in the Straits of Mackinac for the past 67 years, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a bombshell environmental announcement Friday.

key program that has incentivized small-scale solar projects in recent years is nearing its cap in two utility service territories.

On Sept. 23, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a target for Michigan to be carbon neutral by 2050. While that’s certainly a lofty goal, questions remain over what hitting the target will actually mean in practice. Over the next year, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) will submit a MI Healthy Climate Plan to Whitmer that essentially acts as a roadmap. It will begin to detail ways the state and private sector — including utilities and industrial and commercial entities — can start chipping away at the carbon reduction goal while also outlining strategies for offsetting carbon emissions. Whitmer’s announcement made Michigan the fifth state with a long-term carbon neutral target, and the first in the Midwest. EGLE Director Liesl Clark recently spoke with MiBiz to discuss the climate goal and the pandemic’s effect on the clean energy sector.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer aims to create more clean energy jobs in the state by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and becoming carbon neutral within 30 years.

Michigan’s two major investor-owned utilities are joining other large Midwest power companies in pledging to build out an interstate charging network to support more widespread electric vehicle adoption.

DTE Energy plans to significantly expand its solar energy portfolio in the next two years to support growing corporate demand for renewable energy contracts.

Consumers Energy is hosting a series of virtual public forums over the next several months to gather public input on the next phase of its long-term clean energy plan.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has awarded nearly $1.7 million to help public and private entities install 36 electric vehicle fast-charging stations across the state.

Four electric vehicle fast-charging stations are now operating along major highway corridors in the Lower Peninsula as part of the state’s and major utilities’ efforts to build supportive infrastructure allowing for EV growth.

A Southwest Michigan poultry farm recently completed a $650,000 solar energy project to offset the facility’s power usage throughout the year.

GRAND RAPIDS — Since the late 1800s, downtown Grand Rapids has been equipped with a network of pipes that heat buildings with steam generated from a series of boilers across from Van Andel Arena.

DTE Energy’s natural gas subsidiary has pledged to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through a series of actions involving suppliers, customers and its own infrastructure, aligning with long-term goals for the utility’s electricity operations.

Michigan lost another 1,000 clean energy jobs last month, bringing the state’s total losses to 31,000 in the sector since the coronavirus pandemic spread in mid-March, according to an analysis of federal labor statistics.

Michigan’s two largest utilities have operated coal plants uneconomically in recent years, costing customers tens of millions of dollars when cheaper and cleaner resources are available, according to a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Utilities regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission will extend shutoff protections and flexible payment options for vulnerable customers through June 12, state officials announced today.

Shareholders of Michigan’s two major investor-owned utilities have recently rejected calls for more transparency on the companies’ contributions to tax-exempt nonprofit advocacy groups.

HOLLAND — Jolt Energy Storage Technologies LLC has received $250,000 to further advance its utility-scale energy storage solutions.

Michigan lost nearly one-quarter of its clean energy workforce because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the 30,151 job losses since the outbreak began ranks the state third nationally, according to a new report.

COPEMISH — On the afternoon of May 4, three days before an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allowed construction to resume statewide, Allan O’Shea was “ready to go to the party.”

Michigan needs a swift build-out of renewable energy and, in the longer term, more transmission projects to account for the energy shortfall that will grow as more coal and nuclear plants are retired.

A trade group for advanced energy companies has released a series of policy recommendations for state officials to resolve short-term job losses and allow the industry to be a “pillar of the economic recovery to come.”

Michigan solar energy installers have been gearing up over the past week to return to work today following an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that opens construction, real estate and some manufacturing sectors.

The coronavirus has wiped out recent statewide clean energy job gains as Michigan companies take a patchwork approach to continuing work during the pandemic.

Steve Bertman Professor of Environment and Sustainability, Western Michigan University spoke with MiBiz recently about the climate crisis and threats to the brewing supply chain, and why it’s appropriate to discuss climate alongside COVID-19.

A wave of independently owned solar projects planned in Michigan is driven largely by contracts with Consumers Energy, which has long-term plans to significantly boost its solar portfolio.

Nearly 5,500 Michigan workers in clean energy filed jobless claims last month while thousands more are expected as the coronavirus-related economic downturn continues to spread.

Nearly two years after announcing its initial plan, the Trump administration issued a final rule on March 31 that rolls back Obama-era automobile fuel economy standards and requires modest fuel efficiency increases in forthcoming internal combustion models.

Four Michigan small cities rank among the top 10 of their peers nationally for energy efficiency based on the number of buildings saving electricity, costs and greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced this week.

GRAND RAPIDS — Kent County officials announced last week that its recycling processing facility would close to protect workers from potential exposure to and spreading of the coronavirus.