The University of Michigan is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly with an agreement to buy renewable energy through DTE Energy that will result in about half of the purchased electricity for the Ann Arbor campus coming from Michigan-sourced renewable resources.
U-M announced Tuesday that it has committed to purchase approximately 200,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy annually through DTE Energy beginning in 2021.
The agreement is made possible through DTE’s MIGreenPower program, a voluntary renewable energy program that enables residential and commercial customers to attribute up to 100 percent of their energy use to Michigan-made wind and solar projects.
“Reducing the greenhouse gas footprint of electricity that U-M purchases was a key recommendation made by members of our campus community,” President Mark Schlissel said. “This agreement will help us achieve our existing GHG reduction goal, and is an important step on our university’s road to carbon neutrality.”
Combined with other U-M emission reduction efforts, the renewable-energy agreement will enable U-M to achieve its 2025 greenhouse gas reduction goal of reducing GHG emissions 25 percent below 2006 levels.
“We are excited that the University of Michigan has selected MIGreenPower to help achieve its emission reduction targets and appreciate their participation in this program,” said Trevor F. Lauer, president and chief operating officer of DTE Electric.
“Reducing carbon emissions and supporting our state’s clean-energy economy are top priorities for DTE. In fact, we just accelerated our own carbon reduction targets by a decade and will reduce emissions by at least 80 percent by 2040.
“U-M joins both Ford and General Motors in choosing MIGreenPower to help meet enterprise sustainability targets. The program is a great way for residential, business and commercial customers to reduce their carbon footprint easily and affordably.”
DTE plans to build or acquire additional renewable-energy projects and expand MIGreenPower to meet increasing customer demand. As the state’s largest producer of renewable energy, DTE will more than double its renewable energy generation by 2024, investing an additional $2 billion.
The company also is in the process of expanding its MIGreenPower program options, creating more opportunities for customers who want to support different types of renewable-energy projects.
U -M’s renewable-energy purchase will remove nearly 141,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually — the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking more than 30,000 cars off the road for a year, according to a federal Environmental Protection Agency calculation.
Currently, the majority of U-M’s emissions come from natural gas, for which there is no readily available substitute at the scale needed to support the mission of the university, including life-saving research, supporting thousands of students who live on campus and a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week medical center.
The U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality is working to develop recommendations for all three U-M campuses to achieve carbon neutrality in the form of scalable and transferable solutions to be used by other institutions and larger communities to achieve the same goal.
The commission includes U-M faculty, staff and external partners, including representation from DTE Energy and Consumers Energy to leverage its work to develop carbon-reduction strategies to shift to more renewable or lower-carbon energy sources.
This is really exciting. I applaud the University for taking this important step for the future of our State, our Country and our Planet.
“The U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality is working to develop recommendations for all three U-M campuses to achieve carbon neutrality in the form of scalable and transferable solutions to be used by other institutions and larger communities to achieve the same goal.”
So the real question is whether there’s any reason to believe this committee, in which nonrenewable energy companies have a larger role than U of M students, will be any more effective than the one that was ignored four years ago. Especially considering this committee has been explicitly banned from discussing two of the most impactful measures the University could take, divestment of nonrenewable investments and stopping expansion of the University’s natural gas plant, which will lock U of M into nonrenewable energy for the foreseeable future.
This is definitely a step in the right direction, and not a moment too soon. Bravo!
That it only occurred after a massive groundswell of student and community activism indicates a need for * concrete and well-defined* accountability measures to ensure that the important other recommendations made by the previous GHG Reduction Committee and the current Commission on Carbon Neutrality do not sit untouched and unenacted for years. It should not take students sacrificing their education and getting arrested to get the University to devote the resources necessary to confront the climate crisis.
The simplest and most effective way to do this is to set a deadline. No article or statement on sustainability from the administration is without mention of the 2025 emissions reduction goals, which were set by the previous administration. This has been the primary motivator for the limited action taken by the University so far, with intense student lobbying and effort required to implement anything beyond what is necessary to reach those predefined targets.
To build on this positive step, President Schlissel and the Regents of U-M should seriously consider setting a science-based date, 2030, by which U-M will aim to achieve carbon neutrality. It is absolutely possible, but it will take dedicated staff and resources, and input from this community (I commend the University for its efforts to facilitate the latter). This target would demonstrate crucial leadership in this critical time, and harness the efforts of this great University for the good of our greater community. Otherwise, there is always something more pressing, more immediate. Give us a target to keep our sights on, and that will go a long way toward ensuring the accountability that students have advocating for.
Time to Lead on Climate: https://www.michigandaily.com/section/viewpoints/op-ed-time-lead-climate
Effectiveness of a Carbon Neutrality Commission: https://www.michigandaily.com/section/viewpoints/op-ed-we-need-effective-carbon-neutrality-commission
DTE and Consumers Energy: https://www.michigandaily.com/section/administration/u-m%E2%80%99s-allies-carbon-neutrality-effort-have-cloudy-record-clean-energy
Climate Strike and Arrests: https://www.michigandaily.com/section/viewpoints/op-ed-global-climate-strike-and-sit-day-juxtaposition
Natural Gas and CPP Expansion: https://www.michigandaily.com/section/viewpoints/op-ed-fossil-fuel-not-path-carbon-neutrality
This is a long time coming, and I can’t help thinking– as Noah points out– that this is at least in part in response to the massive amounts of public pressure from students and faculty.
I take major exception to one statement in this article, though: “Currently, the majority of U-M’s emissions come from natural gas, for which there is no readily available substitute at the scale needed to support the mission of the university, including life-saving research, supporting thousands of students who live on campus and a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week medical center.” This is *patently untrue*. PLENTY of campuses have replaced their fossil fuel emissions. Stanford University will be 100% renewable (from solar) by 2021*. The city of Georgetown, Texas, is powered almost entirely by wind, solar, and hydroelectricity**. And before you say “oh, well, UM just isn’t sunny enough for renewables”– OSU is already 25% wind powered*** (and if UM students are cheering on OSU over UM, you *know* you’ve screwed up somewhere). And the city of Aspen, Colorado, is 100% renewable, again due to wind, solar, and hydroelectricity****. It’s true that every university is different– but I just cited four very different towns and campuses, all of whom have absolutely crushed UM in terms of climate action.
It is also incredibly frustrating that the University refuses to set a specific date for carbon neutrality. Instead, they make excuses by saying that they don’t want to set a date until they have a specific plan of action. But people like Christina Figueres (who designed the Paris climate agreement) have pointed out to the University that that’s not how action plans work– you set a goal and a vision, and then you work backwards to figure out how you get to that goal. Otherwise you’re just filibustering and delaying action.
Renewables support are a great start. Will the DTE and Consumer lobbying of Public Utilities for 70%lower buyback rates and a large flat monthly rate for using solar power expedite the transition to renewables?