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Innovating to Reach Net Zero by 2050—or Sooner

Michigan continues to make progress toward securing a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. Reaching net zero by 2050 is fundamental to that future and will take all of us working together to get there.

Fortunately, major Michigan employers, educational institutions, and businesses are setting aggressive net zero goals. They’re putting their money where their mouth is by implementing innovative solutions to hit those goals.

GM Takes Net Zero into the Fast Lane

Michigan-based General Motors is upping its pledge to eliminate all tailpipe emissions by 2035 on all light vehicles it sells by also “reducing the amount of electricity, water and waste associated” with vehicle production. Already, GM is making good on its promises.

The automaker recently became the first customer of “net-zero steel” in future vehicle production. Technological innovations at the steel mills producing this net-zero steel enable the steelmaker behind this product to “operate at 70 percent below the current steel industry greenhouse gas intensity.”

GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra also recently announced “a new carbon-cutting initiative that sets a 100% renewable energy goal by 2025”—five years earlier than previously announced. The effort will see the automaker leveraging “energy storage and variable demand” solutions to maximize renewable energy across all facilities.

All these efforts will help support the Detroit-based company’s plans to reach carbon neutrality—aka net zero—by 2040.

Michigan Schools Move to the Head of the Class

Michigan schools are also doing their part to help us reach net zero. Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor recently became the first community college in the state to join DTE Energy’s voluntary green program, MIGreenPower. By 2029, 100% of the school’s electric power will be “sourced through clean energy.”

Meanwhile, thanks to a partnership with DTE Energy, the University of Michigan is now getting roughly half its electricity from local wind energy. Just this spring, the school also adopted a net zero emissions plan that sets a 2040 deadline to reach carbon neutrality. Here are a few ways they plan on doing it:

UM President Mark Schlissel also recently announced the university would be hiring a new director to lead this initiative as part of his plan for his last two years in office and creating a new fund that will seek and share “environmentally sustainable options” to low-income and minority communities, furthering Michigan’s larger net zero goals.

Michigan Companies Make Net Zero their Business

Meanwhile, Michigan companies from across the spectrum of our state’s economy are also stepping up their efforts to reduce emissions and work toward their own net zero and carbon-reduction goals.

Midland-based Dow has “reduced overall emissions 15% in the past 15 years” and is moving forward on reaching its 2025 sustainability goals, with an ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

That includes reducing emissions, eliminating plastic waste, increasing energy efficiency and changing the way they design their products to maximize their value in order to support a “circular economy” that reduces waste.

Cascade Engineering, a Grand Rapids-based engineering and manufacturing company, is building what will be the “first commercial building in Michigan to achieve LEED EB Platinum Certified status.”

Platinum is the highest level of LEED certification—a green-building rating program that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Cascade is earning this distinction by using as much recycled material as possible, avoiding landfill waste, and using a closed-loop water system for the building.

The Michigan Way to Reach Net Zero

Given the focus on net zero Michigan industries, businesses, and schools are making, it’s no surprise that Michigan was recently recognized as one of the top-three states in the nation for sustainable development practices.

This is fantastic news for our efforts to secure a cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable energy future for all Michiganders. But our work is far from done.

To keep up this momentum, it will take the continued work of local and statewide government, private businesses, and even consumers like you. But with the kinds of innovation we are already seeing take place across the state, the future of net zero is looking good in Michigan.

Do you know of any local businesses or organizations that have made net zero or carbon reduction a priority? Let us know by chiming in on Facebook!