Michigan’s Consumers Energy has become the first United States power utility to set a 2040 deadline for bringing its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero.
“It’s the most ambitious goal yet for a U.S. electricity company,” writes NPR affiliate Michigan Radio. “Five electric utilities, including [Detroit-based] DTE Energy, have committed to reaching net zero by 2050.”
The company’s CEO, Patti Poppe, made headlines last fall when she urged customers to cut energy waste as a way to prevent construction of three new gas plants. “This is not a theoretical call to act, this is not a PR stunt,” she said at the time. “This is a call to act to protect our planet for generations to come.”
Now, Consumers is planning to close its last coal plant by 2040, and its latest long-term Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) calls for major investments in energy efficiency and solar. That activity will get the utility 80% of the way to net-zero, and it’s admitting the last 20% will be much tougher to get done.
“Every great achievement has started with a goal,” Poppe said. “Somebody stating something that isn’t true today that will be true in the future.”
“We often say that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” she added in a release. “We have the know-how and the time to continue innovating and creating to solve this problem.”
While Consumers would aim to offset some of its emissions by capturing methane from landfills, or planting millions of trees, Michigan Radio says it might also opt for carbon capture technologies “that are in their infancy and currently cost prohibitive”. Poppe also sees a major role for energy storage.
“Storage technologies that enable a higher dispatch of our renewables might reduce some of the need for fossil fuels to even be in the mix at all,” she said.
“We appreciate Consumers Energy’s vision to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040,” said Michigan Climate Action Network Director Kate Madigan. “Climate change affects virtually every aspect of our lives, including our health, economy, and Great Lakes, and a rapid and just transition to clean energy is critical to avoid the worsening impacts of our overheating climate.”