Consumers Energy plans to stop using coal, increase renewable energy

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) -- The future of where your energy comes from was laid out Monday by Consumers Energy.

The utility company announced a plan to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and stop using coal to generate power.

Consumers Energy says they're moving full steam ahead with creating clean energy for the future.

But it will take some time before the plan is fully charged.

It's a 22 year plan to make Michigan a whole lot greener.

"By 2040, we're going to stop burning coal here in Michigan to generate electricity, we're also going to reduce our carbon footprint by 80 percent," said Consumers Energy Spokesman Brian Wheeler.

Wheeler says that means building up infrastructure to generate electricity using renewable energy like wind, solar and hydro-power, along with taking coal plants off-line.

"So by 2040, those five existing coal plants will be closed. That plus moving in the direction of renewables helps us to reduce our carbon footprint," Wheeler said.

Wheeler says right now 10 percent of the power Consumers generates comes from renewable energy.

Over the next 22 years they want to increase that renewable usage by 40 percent.

Wheeler says the year 2040 was selected because it could take decades to turn around Michigan's energy infrastructure.

"Traditionally, we think of coal as being a big power source and so as you close down coal plants you have to have the infrastructure in place to replace it," Wheeler said.

Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe says they have serious concerns about climate change and the company has a responsibility to take action.

"People want us to develop more renewable sources instead of turning to coal or traditional fossil fuel sources. Our job is to serve customers. Our job is to do what's best for the state and what's best for the environment. And there are real benefits in lots of ways, because as we are bringing new solar power plants on line, we are developing new wind farms, that's going to create more jobs," Wheeler said.

Wheeler says the plan still has to be looked at by regulators.

After that happens they'll have a better idea of what coal plants are closing and where future investment will take place.

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