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Envisioning a Cleaner Energy Future for Michigan

Michigan is in the middle of a clean energy transformation—one that aligns with the recommendations of the international scientific community.

Our 2016 bipartisan energy law put us on the right path to a more sustainable, cleaner energy future by focusing on reducing carbon emissions through multiple strategies, including increasing access to renewables, improving energy efficiency, and incorporating new 24/7 energy technologies—all while making long-term commitments to affordability and reliability.

Most importantly, our 2016 energy law gives local energy providers, regulators, and policy makers the flexibility they need to plan for a cleaner energy future in a way that is tailored to Michigan’s unique energy needs and capabilities. But what is the right way for Michigan to “go green”? The answer has a lot to do with our geography and climate.

Here Comes the Sun (and There it Goes Again)

Did you know that Michigan is ranked as one of the 10 cloudiest states in the nation, according to Farmers’ Almanac? Cold wind rushing over Lake Superior and Lake Huron during the winter creates massive amounts of condensation that turn into clouds and lake effect snow.

Due to this phenomenon, most Michiganders are “only likely to see between 65 and 75 clear days each year.” This is clearly not California or Arizona. Solar power already plays an important part in our energy mix, but we can’t rely just on solar power alone!

Michigan is Blowing in the Wind

A somewhat more reliable and scalable renewable energy resource for Michigan is wind energy. Air coming off the Great Lakes produces energy we can harness on a large scale; for example, in the thumb region, steady winds that come off the water from the north before returning back to the water in the south. In some parts of Michigan, there are “wind belts” that happen in agricultural areas without large cities or wind to disrupt the natural wind patterns.

Both DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have made substantial investments in wind energy in Michigan.  Consumers’ Cross Winds Energy Park in Lapeer County, as just one example, has not only yielded over 150 megawatts of power capacity, but also created economic incentives and opportunities to those living in Lapeer County.

The Ground Beneath our Feet

Something else you might not know is that Michigan is sitting on top of 1.1 trillion cubic feet of underground natural gas storage, making our state “number one in the nation for natural gas storage capacity.” In fact, Michigan boasts more than one-tenth of the total natural gas storage capacity in the entire country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Natural gas provides a critical complement to intermittent sources like solar and wind power as it is a cleaner energy sources that is able to provide power 24/7 regardless of the weather. The abundance of natural gas storage we have just beneath our feet—and innovations in natural gas generation technologies—makes it is clear that it will continue to be an important piece in Michigan’s clean energy puzzle.

How IRPs Will Keep Michigan on the Right Path

The Integrated Resource Plans submitted by DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, as well as a number of Michigan’s municipal energy companies, outline how exactly our local energy providers intend to plan for a cleaner energy future.  Collectively, these IRPs ensure Michigan is well positioned to meet its own energy needs and provide clean, cost-effective, reliable energy for every household and business.

These investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency will help cut carbon emissions substantially, but they will also make the benefits of clean energy available to all Michiganders regardless of their income, where they live, or where they work. That’s how we build a cleaner energy future the Michigan Way—a way where everyone shares in both the responsibility for and the benefits of a more sustainable energy system.