Happy Earth Day everyone!  Want to know what is new in electric Vehicles?  Have you heard about Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan?  Here to talk about both are our resident experts Jessica Woycehoski and Karl Bloss.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1218548/10310751-earth-day-with-jessica-and-karl.mp3?download=true

William Krieger 

Hello, everyone, and welcome to this special edition of the Me You Us Podcast. Today we are celebrating Earth Day with my friends, Jessica and Karl. So listen in as we talk about Earth Day and what that can mean to you. We’re here today celebrating Earth Day, Friday, April 22. And I have a couple of very special guests on board to talk about Earth Day with us and some of the things we’re doing as a company. So I would like to introduce first, Jessica Woycehoski. She is the executive director of electric regulatory and strategy implementation, which is a mouthful. So Jessica, could you introduce yourself, please?

Jessica 

Yeah, thank you, Bill. And I have been working for Consumers Energy in the electric utility side of the business for geez, roughly, I’d say 16 years now. And throughout that period of time, had various roles within the company, starting off in the chemistry labs and knowing about our transformers and our electric distribution system, working with our regulators, and working in the environmental department and working through electric planning, related to building what our clean energy future is going to look like through a formal process called integrated resource plans. And so I’ve had a great joy of working with Consumers Energy over those many years in support of a cleaner environment as well as safe and affordable energy for our customers. So it’s great to be here today.

William Krieger 

It’s great to have you here, you’re going to say one of the beautiful things about working for Consumers Energy is that you can move around and learn a ton of things and have positive impacts in a lot of different places in our company, because there’s just so many opportunities here.

My next guest is no stranger to the podcast, please welcome back Karl Bloss. He is the EV education and outreach coordinator. And in case you don’t know, EV stands for electric vehicle. And Karl Bloss is our Mr. Electric Vehicle. But Carl, if you’d introduce yourself, we’ll get this conversation started.

Karl 

Thanks, Bill.  And thanks for having me. And, yeah, I’ve been with a company for a little bit over a year now. I retired from the chemical industry, started driving electric vehicles in 2014 and sold my last purely gas vehicle in 2018. And over the last year, I’ve been attending events associated with EVs drive electric earth day, you know, these kinds of things, which is coming up again, here, a couple of events, a couple of them have already happened by now. So yeah, just trying to get the word out about EVs and all of the benefits. And of course, one of the huge benefits is the environmental impact. And I think that’s what we’re going to focus on today.

William Krieger 

Absolutely. But I see in your background, there is a Kia, I’m guessing that’s an all-electric vehicle. Does that mean that you no longer have that Leaf that you had for so many years?

Karl 

Yeah, that’s correct. We, we decided to trade up. And so yeah, the new vehicle now has 239-some miles of range, and it fits our lifestyle a little bit better. The leaf continues to be a great car and I was able to sell it on the secondhand market. And I believe it already has a buyer, so it’s great. There’s one more EV out there.

William Krieger 

Well, that’s awesome. I know that you used that car with a lot of love. So hopefully the next owner will do the same.

Karl 

We just got done putting about oh, 1,600 miles on this one on a road trip. So had to learn how the how the system works. And I’m happy to report that we had no glitches and had a great trip and saved a lot of money.

William Krieger 

Well, that’s good to hear. And it’s funny because the audience can’t see this, but the picture behind you is you in a gas pump trying to figure out what to do with this gas pump because it’s not going to, it’s not going to help you out at all. So a new car comes into the Bloss family. But what’s new out there in EVs since the last time we talked?

Karl 

Yeah, that’s a great question. One of the things that’s happening is we’re seeing so many more models and one of the reasons that we upgraded is that this particular vehicle was finally came to Michigan as a Michigan as a non-zero emission mandate vehicle state. So you know, those would be states like California and Colorado where manufacturers are required to bring zero emission vehicles in and Michigan is not that way, at least not yet. And so we were not always the first to receive those kinds of vehicles. And when all these manufacturers now whether it’s our own homegrown Michigan manufacturers, whether it’s the imports, everybody’s now offering a lot more choices on vehicles. And so this one for our case was very affordable. You know, I didn’t necessarily need the latest and greatest model that you know, has 500 miles of range and all these fancy bells and whistles, but one that was be affordable for us, and that maybe in a couple years, we can pass on to our son. And I think that’s one of the big things that’s happening. And the other thing that’s happening is the charging infrastructure has just grown by leaps and bounds. Before I sold the leaf, I actually took a little trip up the Lakeshore, and it should be here coming out here in our next EV newsletter, about how I took that leaf all the way up from you know Muskegon up to Frankfurt, took a day trip with it, and it’s all possible now. So that’s one of the huge changes and that will continue to be that way. We’re looking at putting in 200 more chargers here over the next couple of years, as part of our power the MI Drive Program.

William Krieger 

I was recently at the Veterans and Energy Conference out in DC. And they had a CEO panel, and the CEO from the Tennessee Valley Authority was talking about electrification, and specifically electric vehicles. And while they’re seeing an increase in her area, she said, you know, until they come out with a really reliable pickup truck, it’s going to be tough to get my customers to go electric. And then I get home and I see Ford is coming out not only with an electric pickup truck, but you may be able to power your home if the power goes out. Can you talk a little bit about that technology?

Karl 

Yeah, sure. So we call that vehicle to grid vehicle to building vehicle to everything. And in fact some people abbreviate with V to X meaning vehicle to anything. And essentially what that technology is, it’s a bi-directional charger. So normally, when you have an EV, you have just like with your cell phone, you have a little cube and a cable and the power flows one direction into your phone’s battery. Well think of this now, if you could do this bi-directionally and say, Hey, I’ve got this big battery sitting here. And I don’t need to use all of it for driving all the time. Now maybe when the power is out, which obviously we’re working on to make sure that that doesn’t happen. But when the power is out, or I’m on a camping trip, and I want to use that energy in there, I have a way to get that energy back out. So what Ford has announced, for example, is that with their extended range version, the Ford pro charger, is now bidirectional. So you’ll be able to plug your F-150 Lightning into that charger. And then it will be able to back feed your house, now there’s some more stuff that has to go on there, you know, with tying it into your panel just like you would a generator. But it allows you to take that energy and use it for to power your home. And I know KIA also in their new newer vehicles Kia, Hyundai, and others are doing this too, they have a little dongle, a little plug that you plug into the charging port. And the other end of that is just 120-volt socket. So now, when you’re tailgating or you’re camping, and you want to run an electric kettle or a little refrigerator, you can use that energy and there’s a lot of energy in those batteries. And if you think about how much energy you use in your home every day, I mean, I personally use maybe 24-25 kilowatt hours per day, you know, and that vehicle in the picture behind me has 64 kilowatt hours of battery. So without any changes, I could run my house for days. And so you can think about what the other applications of that could be.

William Krieger 

I’m glad you brought that up because I was having dinner with a friend of mine. And he was talking about this commercial he saw where they were powering the house. And he kind of chuckled like how long that would really last. But if you think about some of the generators that we use, we don’t necessarily power our whole home, right? We maybe power our refrigerator and maybe our furnace so that we can have heat if it’s winter, but we’re not powering the whole home. So you could actually with the power, if you had a full charge in your car, I’m hearing that you could probably power your house for a couple of days. Is that what you just said?

Karl 

So if you think about it, you know, you’re not going to run your electric dryer, maybe which is a really high draw item. So you know, you’re going to conserve a little bit and say well, I’m just going to, you know, I don’t want my freezer to fail because those Michigan blueberries I have in there. I don’t want them thawing out. I want to be able to run the electronics in my furnace. I want to be able to run my water heater even if its gas powered, it’s still has electronics to do the ignition and the fan and all that sort of thing. So yeah, you can make that last for a very long time. And the other kind of neat thing is, let’s say you’re an area that’s affected by a power outage, but maybe you know the town next to you or a couple miles down is not affected by it. You could take your car over there, charge it up and bring it back. So you know, as long as the areas not widely affected, you know, you could do that perpetually, if you think about, it’s just a storage, storage for that energy.

William Krieger 

So I’ve got to tell you, you had me at Michigan blueberries, I, I have a freezer full of those, we go to the farmers market every summer and I stock up on blueberries.

Karl 

Absolutely my wife comes home with 50 pounds when the season is in place.

William Krieger 

So you’re reading my mind? Well, I want to switch over to Jessica now because we have these all these cool things happening with electrification and with EVs in particular. And with that market coming up, and there is bound to be a tipping point where we’ll be selling or buying more EVs than we will be internal combustion engine vehicles, I think maybe that’s going to put some strain on our grid. So we’re going to talk about the Clean Energy Plan, but also about how do we beef up our grid? And how do we do it in a way that keeps us operating in a clean manner. So Jessica, you’re on – we were going to talk about IRP, you said let’s call it the clean energy plan, because it just makes more sense.

Jessica 

That’s right, it’s much easier and integrated resource plans is an electric utility planning process. And we’re very proud as a company to reference it as our clean energy plan. It is the plan that we see as our guiding light for how we’re going to exit coal, and how we’re going to get cleaner and give all of our experts and our stakeholders and our customers a view of what our plans are for the long term. The Clean Energy Plan the things to take away that we’ve currently in the process, and we are waiting for regulatory approval here in Michigan. We’re a regulated utility so we should see our first order here in April or June. But what it does is that we balance across our triple bottom line of People Planet and Prosperity. And there is a lot of analysis that goes behind our clean energy plan to ensure that we truly are as balanced as we can be across all three. And we were able to find a solution that makes us cleaner faster. And that is, we are able to exit all of our coal units by 2025. We have one of the most aggressive solar build out plans probably in the nation, at least for the Midwest, roughly about 8000 megawatts by 2040. And for comparison, that’s a significant portion, it’s more than 50% of our customers’ demand being served through just solar. And on top of that ensures reliability. We get a lot of questions from our customers about how wind is and solar going to be able to serve my needs every hour of every day, that is the expectation they have. And that is what we strive for as an electric utility. And to ensure that as we exit coal, and we have aggressive plans for renewable generation, we are bringing on existing gas natural gas units that reside within the state of Michigan to help make that transition, to help transform that. And we truly need to ensure that as a backstop to all of those renewable and clean energy that we can go to a cleaner natural gas facility to ensure that we keep giving power over the long term. And the great part about those natural gas units is there are very flexible, as far as how they operate within Michigan and within what we call our energy markets that are beyond just Michigan, there are about 15 states within the energy market we participate in as a utility. And that just helps ensure that we can meet our future goal of being net zero by 2040. So we can do examples of how we get there could be carbon capture sequestration, it could be utilizing those gas units less, it could be burning hydrogen, it could be a whole slew of different alternatives. But at least we can ensure that we are being cleaner faster, and that it gives us a route to 2040 that isn’t as big of a jump if we were to maintain all of our coal units. So it’s a great a great plan, a wonderful plan where the company is very proud of it. And throughout all of that effort, the last piece is that we can create roughly $600 million of customer savings. So being clean doesn’t mean that it has to be more expensive. This clean plan we can have all of it as well as reliability and as well as creating customer savings through that process. So it’s been a joy to get through that. And electrification is just going to be another part that weaves into it too. To ensure that as electrification happens, that we have a reliable clean supply to help support the transitions that that particular industry is making at this point.

William Krieger 

Thank you for all of that. You know, we have talked on here several times about Net Zero and all of those things. And so I’m hoping the audience has a good understanding of that. And I don’t want to become Bill Krieger The Science Guy here. But you said carbon capture sequestration and I’ve heard that a couple of times now from different people. And just for the audience’s sake, what the heck does that mean?

Jessica 

Yes. So carbon capture sequestration is, you have a piece of equipment that is above ground, and it will be tied into a generating plant, natural gas generating plant. And if you are familiar, when you go out and you drive and you see the stacks that are up in the air that help release a lot of the heat and the thermal steam that comes from those particular generators, carbon is also a part of the emissions that come out of that stack. What carbon capture does is it captures it prior to leaving the stack, it will take all of that carbon, and then the underground sequestration part of that component is that it will compress it. And it will inject it very far beneath the ground through some of what we call the bedrock and the layers of Earth that we have here in Michigan. And the way that we can do that is that it is proven to be safe, you can get to a point where you inject it so that it doesn’t contaminate groundwater and other sources of safe drinking water that we have. And that is kind of a different approach. But uh, what carbon capture sequestration is.

William Krieger 

Well, thank you. And you did answer my next question was going to be how this impact groundwater does so you, you where you were all over that before I could even ask the question. So. So thank you for that.

Um, you know, as we talk about decommissioning our coal plants and moving to alternative forms of energy, and I’ll toss this question up, either one can answer or hits their buzzer first. But I know like, from my experience on the electric side of the business for a long time we had these Peaker plants so that when you had peak times of usage, you could bring these plants online and kind of balance things out. I’m just curious, you know, we are asking people, or we’re not asking this, typically, a person will charge their vehicle at night when they’re sleeping, which is really off peak. If we see enough electric vehicles come online, will that really enable us to level out those peaks and valleys that we see in usage? Because, you know, during the day, we have high usage for work and office and all those things that we do. And at night, would we see a little bit higher usage for vehicles? Do we foresee like that wave sign that you see today? Or can we talk a little bit about that? I’m just I’m not sounding like I really know what I’m talking about. That’s why I have experts on here. So can we talk about how electrification may level out our usage and help level out those peaks and valleys?

Karl 

So one of the things that we are doing already, is we’re incentivizing EV drivers to charge what we currently consider off peak, which tends to be overnight. Right. And that’s largely because the demand curve, and I’m sure Jessica knows this stuff way better than I do. But the demand curve peaks during the day, particularly in the summertime when you have air conditioning. So just from the standpoint of, you know, we want for grid stability. We want EV drivers to use the energy when it’s when it’s readily available. And by the way, it’s also cheap. And so we have smart technology now, we have EV chargers that are the vehicles themselves, you plug them in, you program them so that they only start charging the vehicle at 11pm. And then they you know finish sometime in the night. And as we get more vehicles, you can do what’s called Manage charging, let’s say you have multiple EVs, which you know, I have multiple EVs, I’ve programmed them. So one charges, and then the other one charges as needed. And so as we start bringing different forms of energy online, for example, like the, you know, more solar during the day, then you do get this thing called the duck curve. And you can look that up. And basically, it refers to the fact that you are now also generating more during the day. And what we can do then is with managed charging, we can say, well, let’s not just do it at a fixed time, but we can do it whenever energy is readily available.

William Krieger 

So Jessica, that is your cue. What’s the future of that?

Jessica 

I think that is a perfect way to think about it because the Solar that we are going to develop and implement deploy here over the next 10 to 20 years, its primary benefit is during that high summer peak period where you are probably going to have more generation then you need an order to serve your customer demand. And so to Karl’s point is those EVs if they have the ability to take that excess, and to charge their vehicles, and then maybe they do have an ability to discharge those for their home usage later in the evening. That is a benefit for how we’re going to clean and one of the benefits of why you would want to deploy the level of solar of which our company is pursuing. On charging during what we call off peak periods, which are really in the late evening, early morning hours. To your question, Bill, about do we see the normal distribution curve that you might see for those that are love statistics and stuff move and be a little bit flatter? As you said, and I think the answer is yes, depending upon the effectiveness, which we’ve seen through our incentives to have people charge on the off peak, that they can charge on those off-peak timeframes. And you’ll see that move up a bit. The benefit that we see for our customers and doing that is it can utilize a system that is already built to manage a summer peak. So our wires, our substations and all of the equipment you see to deliver energy is built to manage that peak period. And the electric vehicle growth, at least as we watch and monitor how it grows here over the next 10 and 20 years, we’re comfortable in that our system will be able to manage that even in the off-peak period. And what also is great about that is that if we can keep it off the peak, where everybody is using it, we don’t have to make further investments of solar or wind or even get pressed into a building a natural gas plant, in order to serve that higher peak. At the end of the day, the company has to meet those peak periods. And, and we want to ensure that we can manage the cost to our customers as best we can. And I think it’s been great to see that those electric vehicle incentives are putting them in the hours that are really to a great benefit for them.

William Krieger 

I think that’ll make sense to our customers. It also almost sounds to me like we can, we can do this without really having to have a huge investment in larger or more infrastructure, that we can handle it in a smarter way. Right. To take on that additional load.

Karl 

Yeah, if I can add to that. So one of the neat things, of course, about EVs is we presume that they are going to be fairly widely distributed, right? So now you’re going to have that energy available where you need it. So if I’m using my EV to charge it off peak when the energy is available and cheap. And now I just use it again, I’m not sending it through a bunch of distribution wiring. And you know, I’m not sending it across the state, I’m using it right where I have it. So I think that should help quite a bit. Because, you know, the presumption is that EVs are going to be distributed, you know, among the people initially that are interested in them. But as that grows, they’re still going to be spread out.

William Krieger 

Like in any change curve, right? You have your early adopters and then eventually it takes off, and it becomes the way that we do things.

Karl 

Exactly.

William Krieger 

Well, I hate to say it, but we are getting close to the end of the podcast. But before we go, I wanted to give each of you a chance to tell the audience what you would like them to take away from this conversation that we’re having today. So Karl, I’m going to let you go first on this one, what’s your message for the audience?

Karl 

Well since we’re talking about Earth Day and invite environmental issues, so beyond the cost savings, EVs generally are environmentally friendly, simply because of how efficient they are. So an EV will convert you know, almost 80% of the electrical energy from the grid to the wheels whereas a conventional gasoline vehicle, just because of the thermodynamics of a combustion engine, you know, you’re looking at maybe if you’re lucky 20%. So right off the bat, even using the same energies, you know, whether you whether you power that vehicle from coal or from sunshine or from wind turbines, you know, the car is agnostic where that comes from but right off the bat, it’s so much more efficient. So that even today, if you drive an EV today with the way that our fuel mix is today, you’re already helping to make an environmental impact. And as we move forward, your car will continue to get cleaner.

William Krieger 

Thanks so much, Carl, for sharing all that, sharing all of your knowledge on EVs. We’re going to have your back; you know that so be prepared. Jessica, I’d like to move over and give you an opportunity also, to leave the audience with a message.

Jessica 

I want to leave the audience with the message that they should have confidence. I hope you have confidence that the utility and that Consumers Energy are making the right moves that we can get cleaner, we can do it safely and affordably and you can still receive the same customer experience, if not better that you have today. And the excitement around all of the electric vehicle and transformation that is happening on Earth Day here. So wishing everybody a happy, happy Earth Day.

William Krieger 

Alright, thanks for that. Thanks again to the audience. For listening in again. Happy Earth Day to everyone. And thanks, Jessica, and Karl, for coming on.

Karl 

Thanks for having us.

William Krieger 

Thank you to the audience for listening in today. The Me You Us podcast is proudly sponsored by Consumers Energy leaving Michigan better than we found it. Remember, you can find the Me You Us podcast on all major podcasting platforms. So be sure to go out find us and subscribe. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. That’s 1-800-273-8255 If you are a veteran or know a Veteran who is in crisis, you can call 1-800-273-8255 in press one for the Veterans Crisis Line. And remember to tune in every Wednesday as we talk about the things that impact your personal wellbeing.