Michigan Calls For 15% Renewable Electricity By 2021

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Originally published on The ECOreport.

Governor Rick Snyder wanted to overhaul the state’s energy bills in 2015, but encountered fierce opposition. Opponents of Senate Bill 438 (SB 438) believed it puts corporate interests above the needs of residents. Proponents describe it as a small step towards lowering electricity costs, creating jobs and improving public health. Thanks to the Governor’s direct intervention, the legislators found a compromise. On Thursday, Michigan passed laws requiring 15% renewables by 2021.



The Governor emerged from his final meeting with House and Senate leaders, business representatives, and utility companies at 5:30 a.m. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” he tells reporters in the video above. “But that’s part of the process. It’s worth it,”

Michigan’s previous renewable portfolio standard, achieved last year, called for renewables to supply 10% of the state’s electricity.

SB 438  requires “each electric provider to maintain its currently mandated renewable energy credit portfolio through 2018; and achieve a renewable energy credit portfolio of at least 12.5% in 2019 through 2021 and at least 15% in 2021.”

In addition, Michigan must “obtain at least 35% of the State’s electric needs through energy waste reduction and renewable energy by 2025.”

“We now have a statewide energy policy that will save Michigan residents millions of dollars on their electric bills, alleviate concerns about having enough capacity to power the daily activities of 10 million people and find new ways to use our existing energy grid more efficiently. This policy also allows for more consumer choice in our growing market,” said Governor Snyder, in a press release.

“The bills protect our environment by making it easier for Michigan to develop its own energy sources, instead of buying coal from various states. Our energy will be more affordable, more reliable and more green.”

The first commercial wind turbine in Michigan, installed in Traverse City in 1996 By bengarrison - Don Quixote's bane, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5756558

Did Michigan’s Legislation Go Far Enough?

Some question whether the bills went far enough.

J.R. Tolbert, vice president for state policy with national business group Advanced Energy Economy, issued a press release stating, “While the increased RPS represents significant progress, the Michigan House missed an opportunity to solidify the state’s commitment to advanced energy resources by omitting a provision that would have ensured a 50-50 ownership split of future renewable energy projects in Michigan. Such a requirement allows independent developers to build 50 percent of new renewable projects in Michigan, which would have driven down ratepayer electricity costs by injecting greater competition for renewable energy in Michigan’s market.”

To which Liesl Eichler Clark, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, adds,”The addition of an unnecessary grid charge on solar customers — particularly when distributed solar remains capped at 1 percent of our energy use — causes real concern.”

Inside the Chambers of the building housing the legislative and executive branches of the government of Michigan by Lola Audu via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Wind turbines are Michigan’s principal source of renewable energy. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the state’s installed capacity was over 1.5 GW as of July, 2016. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that there is potential for 254 GW.

Opposition To Wind Energy

“I see no way of building another 1,000 MW+ of wind capacity in MI without the State taking away local control of zoning … Expect to see a new push for legislation seizing local control of wind zoning over the next 18 months. There is simply too much money to be made in this space to permit regular folks to embarrass the wind carpetbaggers with such impunity,” emailed Kevon Martis, of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, Inc.

He boasts, “We are powerful locally and the wind developers and our incumbent utilities know that all too well and they continue to complain to sympathetic legislators about how unfair it is that Fortune 500 companies are regularly stopped dead in their tracks by local people with cardboard signs, Facebook, and the right of initiative and referendum. Unfair…can you imagine? Invenergy spent $164,000 in Sanilac County and the people spent $2,500 in a local zoning referendum last year. Talk about unfair! Of course Invenergy lost there too, just like every other township zoning referendum since 2008. The People: 11; Big Wind: 0.”

Some of Martis’ bluster may be discouragement, for in a subsequent email he mentions discovering the hidden victory in SB 438. The final draft contains a clause that allows townships and counties to retain local control over zoning for wind energy, as well as every other form of energy. “SEC. 54. NOTHING IN THIS SUBPART ABROGATES THE POWERS GRANTED TO LOCAL UNITS OF GOVERNMENT UNDER THE MICHIGAN ZONING ENABLING ACT, 2006 PA 110, MCL 125.3101 TO 125.3702.”

Gallup Park Sunrise, in Ann Arbor Michigan by Barbara Eckstein via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Support For Wind Energy

Wind energy proponents cite different figures.

A random survey of 400 “likely voters” in Michigan’s Tenth Congressional District, released by American Wind Action last summer, reports that 81% of the respondents were in favor of continued wind development. Only 15% were opposed. This is “Michigan’s Thumb,” an area between Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron where the steady winds have already attracted considerable wind development.

72% of the Michigan respondents to an online poll at I Side with.com answered “Yes,” when asked “Should the government give tax credits and subsidies to the wind power industry?”

Wind turbines near Ubly, Michigan in Michigans Thumb (Congressional District #10) by Ray Dumas via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Under A Trump Presidency

These figures agree with the recent G&S  Sense & Sustainability® Study that reported 78% of their respondents, across the United States, “believe the winner of the presidential race should prioritize the faster adoption of renewable energy.”

“I know that many of our supporters are by no means Donald Trump fans and I am not an enthusiast either. But if he can kill the Clean Power Plan and kill the Production Tax Credit for Wind, the economics for wind energy start to crumble,” wrote Kevon Martis.

Martis believes gas fired generation is far less intrusive and cost effective.

President-elect Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Michigan Public Service Commission report on the state’s energy standards disagrees about the cost, “The combined weighted average cost of the companies’ energy optimization and renewable energy is $37.00 per MWh, significantly lower than the cost of all types of new fossil fuel generation plants.”

This calculation does not include the negative effect of methane emissions on our climate. According to a utility whose principal source is natural gas, methane’s emissions have “over 80 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe.”

Professor Jeffrey A. Andresen, of Michigan State University, told the Detroit Metro Tmes that temperatures in the great region have increased an annual average of “nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1980s.” Some projections indicate they “could reach 7 degrees by the end of the century.”

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Roy L Hales

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

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