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Energy

An oil and gas pipeline expert testifying in a permitting case involving Enbridge’s Line 5 says state energy staffers are downplaying the risk of a potentially catastrophic explosion within a proposed tunnel that would carry oil and propane beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

While major utilities often garner headlines as power generators and providers, electric transmission companies are often behind the scenes as the critical infrastructure that moves power to customers.

A little more than a year after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Enbridge to shut down the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, the state retreated on its key lawsuit seeking to close the twin pipelines.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive directive setting priorities for millions of dollars Michigan is poised to receive under the federal infrastructure bill for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Michigan’s two largest investor-owned utilities seek to play a more active role in economic development — particularly in luring advanced manufacturing facilities to the state — with plans to offer new electricity rates for large expansion projects.

Advanced automotive battery suppliers are considering a pair of West Michigan cities for new or expanded manufacturing facilities, MiBiz has learned. 

GRAND RAPIDS — City officials will leverage more than $1.4 million in state grant funding to buy 12 new diesel- and compressed natural gas-powered fleet vehicles as part of a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

GRAND RAPIDS — Increasing corporate concerns over climate change and growing energy management awareness is fueling growth for Foresight Management. 

GRAND RAPIDS — Fuel distributor Crystal Flash Inc. is expanding its service territory in the Midwest following the acquisition of an Illinois-based fuel and propane provider.

The state Legislature has been active in recent weeks on energy bills being championed by West Michigan lawmakers. 

A coalition of energy businesses and clean energy advocates is calling for a $600 million investment of federal pandemic relief funding into clean transportation initiatives.

Michigan’s two largest investor-owned utilities have launched an “education campaign” as clean energy advocates tout the potential economic benefits of community solar energy and as lawmakers consider bills on the topic that the utilities oppose.

A state lawmaker from West Michigan has introduced legislation that would give industrial electric customers an opportunity to select alternative power suppliers in what supporters say is an effort to reduce electric costs and attract investments.

EAST LANSING — Expanding community-based solar energy projects that allow utility customers to purchase subscriptions for offsite generation would contribute nearly $1.5 billion to the state’s economy and create thousands of jobs. 

A Northern Michigan electric cooperative will buy power from a large-scale solar project being developed in Cass County.

Statewide legislation introduced this month hopes to resolve a years-long dispute between power providers and local governments over the taxable value of wind turbines and how much revenue is directed to local taxing units.

GRAND RAPIDS — Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer says West Michigan can “lead from the front” on renewable energy and battery storage, though he is withholding support for Democrats’ climate and clean energy proposals he believes lack details.

GRAND HAVEN — A West Michigan-based startup in the early stages of raising capital wants to lower the cost of and better manage energy storage and electric vehicle charging in homes.

Consumers Energy expects to start purchasing power next year from four new solar projects that will add more than 100 megawatts of renewable energy to the utility’s generation mix.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest plan for spending $2.1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief includes tens of millions of dollars for clean energy initiatives. 

CADILLAC — Consumers Energy has unveiled a new “brownfield to brightfield” solar project that converted formerly abandoned industrial property into a clean energy power source.

ANN ARBOR — A Southeast Michigan company that started by inspecting wind turbine components by drone has evolved to provide more complex asset management that’s meant to maximize the output of a growing renewable energy sector.

Environmental and ratepayer advocates are withholding their full-throated support for Consumers Energy’s new long-term energy plan that eliminates coal usage by 2025, citing concerns over potential rate effects and the scale of ongoing fossil fuel reliance.

JACKSON — Michigan’s largest energy company announced today that it plans to phase out its remaining coal-fired power plants by 2025, which would be 15 years earlier than planned, as part of its updated long-term energy plan.

COVERT TOWNSHIP — Local officials in Southwest Michigan got a more than $1.2 million boost last week to advance their efforts to prepare for the impending closure of the Palisades nuclear power plant. 

A financing tool that helps businesses fund clean energy and energy efficiency projects would be expanded to include additional properties and water quality efforts under legislation announced last week.

JACKSON — Investor-owned utility Consumers Energy has launched a new electric vehicle program that provides rebates and consultation to businesses looking to transition to electrified fleets.

Michigan lawmakers have joined nearly two dozen other states looking to stop local climate change efforts that involve electrifying various building and transportation components to reduce carbon emissions.

June 1 marks the start of a new partnership between MiBiz and St. Paul, Minn.-based nonprofit Energy News Network. For myself, though, it’s more of a reunion.

Business advocacy groups from around the Great Lakes argued this week that shutting down Line 5 would lead to a crisis in regional oil and gas markets, although pipeline critics say that forecast is overblown.

Michigan’s two major investor-owned utilities want to negotiate with state legislators and advocates on a proposed bill that would expand access to the companies’ rooftop solar programs.

JACKSON — Consumers Energy plans to help ramp up the number of fast-charging electric vehicle stations across the Lower Peninsula in the coming years to ensure EV drivers can travel longer distances while maintaining access to charging equipment.

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.