Putting Together the Capacity Puzzle: Natural Gas

If you’ve kept up with our recent posts here and here, you’re familiar with the looming capacity crisis that Michigan will face this year as nine of our state’s coal-fired power plants shut down due to age and environmental regulations.

Looking ahead to 2020, that number climbs to 25 generating units in Michigan alone, with hundreds more plant closures across the Midwest.  The loss of up to 16 gigawatts of baseload capacity this year has local energy providers working as quickly as possible to find ways to make up for the shortfall.

Though it’s certainly not the only solution needed, expanding and improving natural gas access in our state is one of the solutions that will help us address this capacity shortfall head-on.

One piece of legislation currently under consideration in Lansing—House Bill 4303, sponsored by Representatives Nesbitt and Roberts—seeks to do just that.  Under the “Next Mile” expansion of natural gas pipelines called for in their bill, natural gas service would expand to some 850,000 additional Michiganders (that’s 1 in 5 households).

Why Natural Gas—and Why Now?

Here’s why natural gas is poised to be such a big player in Michigan’s energy future as coal-fired power plants across the state close in the coming months and years:

What Needs to Happen First

Before we can really start using natural gas to offset our capacity shortfall in the coming years, we need to update, improve, and expand Michigan’s natural gas infrastructure. As Governor Snyder pointed out in his State of the State Address, Michigan has challenges when it comes to infrastructure needs in general.

Passing the Next Mile legislation is an important step in expanding natural gas in our state. Most of the unserved or underserved consumers that would benefit from natural gas expansion live in rural areas, including much of the Upper Peninsula. Building infrastructure to connect these areas to natural gas service would offer consumers a cleaner, more affordable alternative to the propane that many of them currently use, as well as connecting them to more reliable electricity.

Next Mile legislation would also help:

Lansing Must Plan Now

In order to make this “pipe dream” a reality, legislators in Lansing must create a road map for local energy providers and the state to implement the infrastructure plans.  House Bill 4303 is just one of several pieces of energy legislation—including the bills from Representative Nesbitt and Senators Nofs and Proos to craft new energy policy for our state—that await further hearings in the legislature.

Natural gas will play an important role in Michigan’s energy future one way or another.  Improving and expanding our natural gas infrastructure in smart ways is key to ensuring we are able to make that future as bright as possible for all Michiganders.

What would you like to know about the role of natural gas in Michigan’s energy future? Send us your questions!