Energy has been on the mind of Metro Detroiters recently. COVID-19 has made energy costs even more unaffordable for many, and DTE Energy plans to close down its coal plants by 2022. Beyond that, the future of renewable energy development in Michigan appears less certain after the state lost 30,150 clean energy jobs in the month of April and March.
Amid these changes, we wanted to take a look at how much electricity Michigan requires and how it fuels that energy. Here’s what we found.
How much electricity does Michigan generate?
Electric capacity is the total amount of electricity that can be generated by power plants within the state. Discussions surrounding electric capacity look at the different ways that electricity is generated in the state, demand for that electricity, and whether or not utilities are on track to have enough electricity in years to come.
Michigan’s electric capacity is coordinated by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc (MISO), which oversees electricity generation capacity and sharing between 15 states and territories, including Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Texas. MISO requires that states in its network have 15.5 percent more energy than they need at peak times in the year, to protect against unforeseen emergencies, surges, and outages. MISO is an Independent System Operator and Regional Transmission Organization that manages one of the real-time energy markets–meaning its coordinates and controls the use of electric transmission systems by utilities, generators, and marketers–across the Midwest.
One way of doing ensuring enough energy capacity is by storing energy sources like natural gas. Michigan has almost 1.1 trillion cubic feet of underground natural gas storage capacity, more than any other state–the next closest state is Illinois with about 1 trillion cubic feet.
DTE Energy owns the largest natural gas storage field in Michigan, the Washington 10 field under Romeo, Michigan, which is a 68.5 billion cubic feet field north of a 59-mile natural gas pipeline between Milford and Belle River. Consumers Energy controls the largest portion of natural gas storage in the state with 150.9 billion cubic feet in total, split among 14 sites in Michigan.
What fuels Michigan’s electricity?
Michigan is the 10th largest carbon dioxide emitter in the country, with 152- million metric tons of CO2 emitted in 2017. That is in part because the largest percentage of Michigan electricity is generated by coal–but that ‘s changing.
In 2001, 62% of Michigan’s electricity was produced by coal, in 2012 it was 53%, and as of 2019, only 33% of Michigan’s electricity was generated from coal.
As the percentage of energy generated by coal decreases, natural gas and nuclear power are replacing it. In 2019, natural gas powered 31% of Michigan’s electricity, and nuclear generated 29%. Natural gas in particular has seen a dramatic increase over the past two decades.
But natural gas is likely not a long-term solution to Michigan’s emissions challenges, because it’s composed mostly of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that, according to the EPA’s Global Warming Potential Measurement, is about 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the earth.
Like natural gas, Michigan’s renewable energy is on the rise. In 2017, renewable resources provided 8.9% of Michigan’s net electricity generation. In 2019, two-thirds of that was provided by wind. Michigan is among the top 15 states in the nation in wind-powered electricity generation. Solar energy is still limited in Michigan, representing the smallest renewable energy source with only 1.8% of the total amount of renewable energy produced in 2019.