Michigan’s Public Service Commission received a recommendation to reject Consumers Energy’s proposed long-term energy plan, which includes substantial investments in clean energy resources. The plan was reviewed by an administrative law judge (ALJ) who made reasonable, constructive suggestions, but felt the need to ultimately recommend rejection of the plan. This puts Consumers Energy’s proposed clean energy transformation at a crossroads. NRDC, alongside Michigan Environmental Council and Sierra Club, filed a response generally supportive of the ALJ’s issue specific suggestions, but with the important exception to rejecting all aspects of the plan.
In mid-June of 2018, Consumers Energy filed their long-term energy plan called an integrated resource plan (IRP), the first of a newly required cycle of IRPs outlined by the 2016 energy laws. The plan must look out 15-20 years, forecast what their customers will need, and craft a path for how to meet those needs. Consumers Energy outlined a “clean and lean” vision for the utility that showed over 40 percent of their energy coming from renewables, over 20 percent coming from demand side resources like energy efficiency, and no coal generation by 2040.
They described their plan as fully integrated, suggesting that a modification or rejection of one piece of the plan could impact the viability and willingness to execute the rest of the plan. It appears it is this all-or-nothing representation that made the administrative law judge feel her list of suggestions negated the ability to recommend approval of the plan contingent upon adjustments. NRDC, Michigan Environmental Council, and Sierra Club do not buy into the all-or-nothing characterization. We recognize that all-or-nothing is a common opening position, but does not and should not be a bottom line. At the end of the day, that will be an assessment for Consumers Energy to make, but we believe it to be unreasonable, imprudent, and harmful to customers to abandon the beneficial clean energy elements of the plan.
A Path Forward
NRDC, Michigan Environmental Council, and Sierra Club filed a position in support of the Commission recommending changes to the IRP, as permitted by statute, which puts the responsibility back on Consumers Energy to come back with a revised plan the Commission can approve.
The Commission will be providing an initial order, that could include recommendations, on April 11. If conditional approval is given, Consumers Energy will then have until May 10 to submit a revised plan incorporating any Commission changes, with a final Commission order coming June 10.
NRDC is a joint intervenor with Michigan Environmental Council and Sierra Club in the Consumers Energy Integrated Resource Plan Case (U-20165) represented by Olson, Bzdok & Howard and Earthjustice.