Michigan’s Largest Utility to Propose Virtual Power Plants and Renewables in IRP

June 14, 2018
Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, plans to unveil an integrated resource plan (IRP) this week that elevates virtual power plants as a means to meet new energy needs.

Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, plans to unveil an integrated resource plan (IRP) this week that elevates virtual power plants as a means to meet new energy needs.

Virtual power plants aggregate distributed energy resources and orchestrate their operation via a central control system. 

Due to the Michigan Public Service Commission June 15, the IRP calls for virtual power plants in the form of demand response, energy efficiency, and grid modernization tools. Consumers Energy expects the virtual power plants to reduce energy demand 22 percent by 2040.

While the proposal increases distributed and renewable energy resources, it calls for shutting down two of the utility’s centralized coal-fired units at the Karn Generating Complex near Bay City in 2023.

The increase in clean energy is part of the a broader company strategy to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent and eliminate the use of coal to generate electricity by 2040. 

“Our vision considers people, the planet and the prosperity of our state and the communities we serve. This IRP will help guide key decisions in the coming years to make us a cleaner, leaner company for the Great Lakes State,” said Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy and CMS Energy. “This is a pivotal moment in our company’s long, proud history — and this plan charts a course for us all to embrace the opportunities and meet the challenges of a new era.”

“Our vision considers people, the planet and the prosperity of our state and the communities we serve.”

Pending regulatory approval of the IRP, Consumers Energy will increase renewable energy from 11 percent today to 37 percent by 2030 and 43 percent by 2040. In all, the utility would add 5,000 MW of solar energy throughout the 2020s, along with wind and battery storage.

Consumers Energy developed the IRP over the last 18 months by gathering input from customers and key stakeholders. The company then modeled future scenarios using a variety of assumptions about factors such as market prices, energy demand and levels of clean energy resources, including demand response and energy efficiency, wind and solar.

The utility said that its modeling showed energy efficiency, demand management and renewable energy to be the most affordable way to meet customers’ needs in the future.

 The principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electricity, and serves 6.7 million of the Michigan’s 10 million residents.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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