Election 2020 outlook: Renewable energy could get boost – Crain’s Detroit Business

The energy industry has been slowly shifting over the past decade away from fossil fuels to generate electricity to more renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Both of Michigan’s main electric utility companies, Consumers Energy Co. and DTE Energy Co., have set goals of being coal-free by 2040.

Biden has called for eliminating carbon emissions from electric-generation by 2035.

Patti Poppe, CEO of Consumers’ Jackson-based parent compay, CMS Energy Corp. (NYSE: CMS), was asked about the prospect of a Biden presidency in a third-quarter earnings calls Thursday with investors.

“If Joe Biden is elected and there is a stronger push for a clean energy transition, or a carbon-free electric sector, we have a plan that’s pretty aggressive already — we have a plan that gets to net zero carbon by 2040,” Poppe said. “Even when he says 2035 in campaign ads, the idea that it really be national by 2035 seems aggressive, but we could actually work to adapt.”

Biden has said he would spend billions on renewable energy projects and encouraging the transition away from fossil fuels to develop new technologies for the power and vehicle industries. He has promised to reengage the U.S. in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Biden also has promised a 10-year, $1.7 trillion plan that includes adding 500 million solar panels, 8 million solar roofs and community solar energy systems and 60,000 wind turbines. He said the government seed money would help create a $5 trillion private renewable energy industry and put the U.S. back on top as a world renewable power.

Private industry also has invested heavily in electric and autonomous automobiles with some government incentives.

Experts don’t believe a second Trump term would slow trends, but the president appears not to be a big fan of electric vehicles or renewable energy.

Trump also has disparaged efforts by industry, states and cities to reduce pollution and the negative effects from climate change. In fact, U.S. government websites were purged of mentions of climate science.

He has supported efforts to remove regulations around fossil fuel licensing and lifted environmental protections that prevented fossil energy projects. He has opened up large areas in Alaska to oil exploration and allowed pipeline projects to move ahead.

Poppe told Wall Street analysts last week that CMS is “pretty agnostic on the outcome of the election.” But she acknowledged the energy company sees more certainty with Trump in the White House.

“We know what to expect from Donald Trump and his administration,” Poppe said. “That’s been working fine for us.”

Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, partly reversing Trump’s tax cuts that reduced the rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

In an interview with Crain’s, Poppe said the Trump tax cuts resulted in a 5 percent reduction in rates for Consumers Energy’s customers.

“So you can imagine, if the corporate tax rate goes up, then that savings goes away,” Poppe said. “It shouldn’t change our clean energy transition, but it definitely will cost energy buyers that tax rate. So we really thought that tax reform was good for Michigan’s prosperity and our ability to pass that all directly — 100 percent — back to customers.”

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