Rankings show Michigan-based utilities perform better on energy efficiency
Michigan's two largest electric utilities are generally solid performers when it comes to their energy efficiency programs, but are in the middle of the pack nationally with their use of renewable energy, a new report shows.
The report from Boston-based nonprofit Ceres, released Tuesday, ranked 30 of the nation's largest investor-owned utilities on renewable and efficiency performance. DTE Energy Co. andCMS Energy ranked in or near the top 10 for their single-year energy efficiency savings, but fell in the rankings compared to other utilities for their use of renewable power sources.
Detroit-based DTE ranked 19th for its use of renewable energy, sixth for its incremental efficiency savings — defined here as energy savings in a single reporting year from either new participants or new programs — and 23rd for life-cycle energy savings. All were based as a percentage of retail sales in 2014, the most recent data available.
"As one of the largest energy companies in the United States, DTE Energy holds itself to the highest standards across all of our operations everyday, including the work continuously underway to deliver energy efficiency results and transition to cleaner energy generation," said Stephanie Beres, media relations manager at DTE Energy.
BY THE NUMBERS
Detroit-based DTE Energy Co.
Total electric sales*: 19th (46.96 million megawatt hours)
Renewable energy sales**: 19th (8.74 percent)
Incremental efficiency savings**: 6th (1.45 percent)
Life-cycle efficiency savings**: 23rd (5.81 percent)
Jackson-based CMS Energy (parent company of Consumers Energy)
Total electric sales*: 21st (37.2 million megawatt hours)
Renewable energy sales**: 17th (9.36 percent)
Incremental efficiency savings**: 11th (1.21 percent)
Life-cycle efficiency savings**: 8th (14.79 percent)
*All data from 2014
**As a percentage of total retail sales
Jackson-based CMS, the parent company of Consumers Energy, ranked 17th for renewable energy, 11th for incremental energy savings and eighth for life-cycle energy efficiency.
"On efficiency, they're definitely doing a solid job, and with the right encouragement they would move their way to the top of the pack," said Dan Bakal, director of electric power for Ceres, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable practices, including in business. "I think the rankings actually ... reflect where they are, in that they're doing some solid work and there's room for improvement."
Ceres' report expands on the nonprofit's inaugural study in 2014. The group looked at investments in clean energy across the U.S. amid a changing landscape that includes more demand for renewable power and policy discussions at the state and federal level about reducing carbon emissions.
In Michigan, lawmakers are debating changes to the state's 2008 energy law that would replace existing standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency with a combined goal of 35 percent by 2025. Michigan's existing energy law includes mandates that utilities generate at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, a target that has been reached, and offer savings of 1 percent of total retail sales through efficiency programs.
Utilities that performed well in both areas "are located almost entirely in states with more ambitious clean energy policy goals such as California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Oregon," the Ceres report states, "while utilities with poor results are typically in states with weak policies, many of them being in the Southeast."
Bakal said state policy "can play a really important role" in determining how much emphasis a utility will place on renewable power sources and efficiency programs. Ceres advocates for standards in state policies.
The report illustrates that higher targets are achievable and help create stability for investors, businesses and ratepayers, said Alli Gold Roberts, Ceres' policy program manager.
"We are responding to customer interest by investments in Michigan-based renewable energy that exceed current requirements in state law," Consumers spokesman Dan Bishop said in a statement.
"These investments include a new wind park being developed in Huron County, dedication of a new community solar power plant with Grand Valley State University, a solar power plant being developed with Western Michigan University, as well as other green energy projects in the pipeline. Consumers Energy customers have saved $1 billion since 2009 through energy efficiency programs and we continue to invest in these programs."
Beres credited DTE with driving nearly $2 billion investment in the state's renewable energy infrastructure that in turn created jobs, facilitated economic development and benefited Michigan communities. "Over the next decade, DTE will continue work to fundamentally transform the way the company generates electricity — and renewable energy sources will continue to play an important, significant role in achieving this goal."
The 30 companies included in the study hold 87 electric utilities across the country. Together, they comprise close to 60 percent of all U.S. electric sales in 2014. Ceres gathered data from state annual reports, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings and other reports.
Its authors based their rankings on the total amount of renewable energy sold to electric customers in 2014, including that generated from utilities' own power plants, through purchase agreements and with credits; the total energy efficiency savings utilities reported in 2014 from new participants and programs; and the total life-cycle energy efficiency savings that factor in all utility programs and their anticipated future savings.
Ceres said the utility companies delivered more than 136,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy to their customers in 2014 and reached annual energy efficiency savings topping 19,000 gigawatt hours — up 13 percent and 9 percent from 2013, respectively.