Net Zero 101: Your Questions Answered

We know there are a lot of questions when it comes to net zero—what is it, how will we achieve it, and what does it mean for Michigan? We want to clear up any confusion and take some time to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get about net zero.

Q: What is net zero?

A: Net zero refers to the elimination emissions from the atmosphere by capturing the carbon and storing it safely in places like trees and undergrounds rock formations or avoiding generating these emissions altogether.

Q: How will “going net zero” benefit Michigan?

A: Achieving net zero emissions—in all aspects of society, including business, manufacturing, transportation, energy production, and government—will help reduce the most significant impacts of climate change since CO2 is one of the primary greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that absorb and re-emit heat.

In Michigan, climate change has already led to more severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. If we don’t do something to address it now, things will only get worse. The Great Lakes could flood, more summer days could be marked by extreme heat, and soil moisture could be reduced. This would endanger our health, the quality of our air and water, and could potentially devastate Michigan’s thriving agricultural industry.

Achieving net zero—here in Michigan, across the country, and around the world—is one of the best chances we have at cutting carbon emissions and avoiding the most severe impacts of climate change. Net zero is key to securing a cleaner, more sustainable energy future for all Michiganders without compromising reliability, affordability, or fairness for anyone.

Q: What are Michigan energy providers’ goals regarding net zero?

A: Consumers Energy plans to reach net zero emissions by 2040 with a multi-faceted approach that includes:

DTE Energy plans to reduce emissions and reach net zero in its electric production by 2050 by:

DTE Energy’s net zero goals for 2050 also extend to their natural gas service.

Q: Why is 2050 such an important date in the timeline for reaching net zero?

A landmark United Nations study stated that global net carbon emissions caused by humans “would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050” for our planet to have at least a 50% chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate change. This is why 2050 has become such a focal point for net zero in energy, transportation, government, and other sectors.

Q: Does reaching net zero mean only using renewable energy like wind and solar?

No. While increasing use of renewable energy is an important part of reaching Michigan’s net zero goals, they are only one piece of the net zero puzzle.

In addition to renewables like universal wind and solar and clean energy like natural gas, we will also need to continue investing in and developing innovative, new energy solutions, like hydrogen and nuclear technologies, large-scale energy storage systems, as well as carbon-capture and storage. It will take the participation of consumers in voluntary green programs as well as improvements in energy efficiency at both the consumer and production level in order for Michigan to reach its net zero goals.

No matter how we get there, it’s important to understand is that net zero is about more than just renewables. It’s about reducing emissions by striking the right balance of renewables, clean energy technologies, and energy efficiency.

Q: What else is Michigan doing to reach net zero?

Aside from effort by local energy providers, Michigan is moving forward in a number of ways to secure a cleaner energy future by eliminating carbon emissions.

This includes two executive orders signed by Governor Whitmer last year requiring new state buildings and infrastructure to be carbon neutral in the next 30 years. The Governor’s directives set a goal of “net-zero carbon usage in the construction and operation of all state facilities 2050.”

State agencies like the Department of Natural Resources are launching their own innovative projects to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and increase renewable energy development, both of which will help Michigan meet its net zero goals.

A number of Michigan businesses and industries are pursuing similar net zero goals. From building, construction, and architecture to electric vehicles and the agriculture industry, the private sector in our state is working hard to play a role in securing a stronger, more sustainable, and cleaner energy future that benefits all Michiganders.

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