December 6, 2018 Read More →

U.S. utility CEO: Move away from coal ‘saves everyone money’

Energy News Network:

In a speech this week to a large, business-friendly crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe presented an economic case for solar power, electric vehicles and moving past coal.

The company closed seven Michigan coal plants in 2016, cutting carbon emissions 25 percent without hurting its workforce. As the company focuses on solar in the coming years, Poppe said electric vehicles will play a growing role in the company’s “triple bottom line” principle of serving people, the planet and prosperity.

It’s a big departure for a CEO who not too long ago had an “I love coal” bumper sticker on her car:

Poppe conceded that Consumers previously “fought” solar adoption. Now the company is embracing it, planning up to 6,000 megawatts of solar in its portfolio by 2040. “We can have cleaner, more modular energy that more closely matches demand,” Poppe said. “It saves everyone money.”

She said the build-out will be “a little bit of both” utility-scale and smaller distributed projects, but active farmland isn’t the company’s first choice for development. “We should be finding ways to use otherwise unusable land for solar — parking lots, warehouse rooftops,” she said.

Earlier this year, the company announced it would be coal-free by 2040 and reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent while also reducing water usage and waste sent to landfills. The company also does not plan large capital investments in a natural gas plant. “It’s a win-win-win,” she said. “That’s why it’s not an economic risk to move away from a traditional energy source like coal.”

More: Four key takeaways from a Michigan utility’s clean energy transition

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