On behalf of BWL’s over 800 employees, members of the IBEW Local 352 and 800 retirees, we want to respond to some of the inaccuracies published in last week’s City Pulse in an opinion piece by City Council member Brian T. Jackson on the BWL’s clean energy plan and policies.
It’s no secret climate change has been an increasing concern for decades, and it should be no secret the Lansing Board of Water & Light has been preparing for and responding with a robust clean energy transition plan for years. The fact is the BWL stands as a clean energy leader in Michigan, committed to achieving ambitious climate improvement goals.
The BWL has been a leader in the state of Michigan as the first to adopt a renewable energy portfolio in 2007. In 2022, the BWL closed its last coal-fired power plant in the Lansing area, which reduced its direct coal consumption to zero. The BWL has also embarked on one of the most aggressive and comprehensive clean energy plans in the state of Michigan, setting commendable goals of 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2040.
To this end, the BWL announced in July its largest planned growth in BWL’s nearly 140-year history, which includes a robust package of 160 megawatts of battery storage, 65MW of solar in the Lansing region, 195MW of additional solar throughout the state, 238MW of wind energy, and continued growth of our energy waste reduction program, as well as expansion into demand response programs for our customers. Several of those projects are very close to final design and permitting.
Anticipating enactment of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “MI Healthy Climate Plan,” which calls for 1,000MW of energy storage by 2025, the BWL’s portfolio would supply 16 percent of the state’s energy storage goal even though the BWL only supplies 6 percent of the state’s total energy. This is just one example of many that demonstrates how BWL can significantly support Michigan’s goals, amplifying the impact of energy policies to our customers, and helping to propel the entire state toward a greener future.
As part of this push forward to more renewable energy resources, the BWL has included a new Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engine — or RICE — plant that can respond instantly to the ups and downs of intermittent renewable power resources that depend on the sun or the wind to supply power that is needed instantly by customers. Council member Jackson’s criticism of the RICE plant is, at best, an oversimplification. Natural gas, which is a significantly cleaner source of energy than coal, represents a transitional step toward a full renewable energy portfolio. Until the day when we can reliably store energy at the scale necessary for utilities to supply energy without one second of delay, natural gas is the cleanest resource available to fill that role. In the meantime, the BWL will also make increasing use of battery storage to offset the intermittent nature of renewable generation.
It’s also important to note the BWL’s supply of energy to the new electric vehicle battery plant in Delta Township is also contributing to the automotive industry’s commitment to a cleaner transportation future. This relationship demonstrates how together, we can work to achieve shared environmental goals to support reliable energy needs while also powering future regional economic growth.
Leadership in climate and environmental issues demands both community engagement and realistic, fact-based decision making that fulfills the mission of providing safe, reliable and affordable energy using strategies that are climate conscious and innovative. The BWL has always shared its energy plans at meetings open to the public. At its core, that is what public power is all about.
For those who would like to know more about local efforts to address climate change, reach out to BWL rather than Council member Jackson at www.lbwl.com/cleanenergyprojects.
(Ron Byrnes, is BWL International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 352 business manager. Calvin Jones is BWL government & community relations director. Jan Simpson, BWL Retirees Association president.)
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