Bucket trucks prove to be a bee in Comcast's carbon neutral bonnet

Comcast continued to push its sustainability efforts, announcing this week it will leverage renewable wind and solar energy to power Comcast Cable’s Michigan operations. But an operator representative told Fierce there are still challenges to overcome as it strives to become carbon neutral over the coming years.

The cable operator is partnering with Michigan-based utilities Consumers Energy and DTE Energy to generate a combined annual volume of around 52,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity.

Consumers Energy is contributing approximately 30,000 MWh of renewable electricity per year through its Large Customer Renewable Energy Program, which helps large businesses use energy more efficiently. Consumers Energy’s project aims to cover Comcast Cable operations in central and Western Michigan.

Meanwhile DTE Energy’s program – MIGreenPower – will span Comcast’s footprint in Detroit and the city’s surrounding areas, providing around 22,000 MWh of renewable electricity annually.

Comcast’s agreements with both utilities are set for 10 years. The operator says the combined annual volume of 52,000 MWh is equivalent to roughly one year’s worth of electricity use for more than 7,000 homes.

“Commitments like this make a meaningful impact in decreasing carbon emissions and speeding up the development of new clean energy here in Michigan,” stated Brian Rich, SVP and chief customer officer at Consumers Energy.

Brian Calka, VP of renewable sales and project development for DTE Energy, added, “As Michigan’s largest producer of and investor in renewable energy, we are proud to work with Comcast on our shared goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through clean, renewable energy.”

The Michigan initiative is part of Comcast’s overarching goal to be carbon neutral across its global operations by 2035. Comcast in March brokered a 15-year agreement with energy provider Constellation to buy 250 megawatts of carbon-free solar electricity, which will power most of Comcast’s operations in the Mid-Atlantic as well as some portions of the Midwest.

Chandler Clay, senior director of environment communications at Comcast NBCUniversal, told Fierce Comcast teams are “working every day across business lines to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency and implement sustainable practices for the future.”

Per Comcast’s latest Carbon Footprint Data report, the company reduced its Scope 1 (direct) greenhouse gas emissions from 547,084 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in 2020 to 519,288 tCO2e in 2021.

Market-based Scope 2 (indirect) emissions decreased from 1,675,509 tCO2e to 1,279,751 tCO2e in that same time period.

“We are working diligently to achieve our carbon neutral goal, but there are still challenges that will need to be overcome,” Clay told Fierce via email. “Including increased large-scale public and private-sector investments and innovations in technology and infrastructure.”

“For example, certain types of electric vehicles, such as the bucket trucks used in our operations, do not exist today and may not be manufactured for years to come,” she continued.

While Clay didn’t disclose specifics of any other potential renewable agreements, she added Comcast is “actively considering and seeking new renewable contracts and projects across the U.S. to grow our renewable electricity procurement and make progress on our carbon neutral commitment.”

Further bolstering its environmental efforts, Comcast has come up with a more efficient way to recycle coax cable waste. The operator is working with Echo Environmental to create new raw materials from the coax’s insulation and jacketing.

Other companies, like Microsoft and Cisco, have made similar energy sustainability pledges over the past couple of years.