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Renewables cheaper than coal, Michigan regulators say

photo michigan renewable energy solar panel flag sky

Photo by University of Michigan via Creative Commons

The CEO of a wind manufacturing company says renewable energy is a good investment. That’s to be expected.

But what about the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates major utilities that get most of their power from coal?

The PSC has released its annual checkup [PDF] on the implementation of the state’s Renewable Energy Standard and its cost effectiveness. The highlights include:

  • More than $100 million in investments on advanced energy projects from 2008-2011, with job creation as an additional benefit;
  • An average cost for renewables of $91.19 per megawatt hour, compared to $133 per megawatt hour for a new coal plant.

That’s almost 42 bucks less per megawatt hour for cleaner energy sources like wind and solar, without nasty downsides like respiratory illness and mercury pollution.

Without much fanfare

This news on the economic upsides of renewables comes from the Energy Innovation Business Council, a trade organization of Michigan clean energy companies. The council is singing the praises of the PSC report. The PSC posted the 53-page document to its website last week, without much of any fanfare.

“Michigan manufacturers and businesses see firsthand how a renewable energy standard drives economic growth, innovation, investments and job creation, and this report validates the need for a strong renewable energy standard,” said Jeff Metts, the CEO mentioned earlier, who runs Astraeus Wind, a manufacturing company based in Eaton Rapids.

“Other states are aggressively pursuing strategies to grow their renewable energy and manufacturing sectors. Michigan must roll up our sleeves and aggressively position ourselves to compete for new opportunities and jobs, or get left behind.”

That last line includes a little politicking. Michigan is on track to meet its RES of 10 percent by 2015, according to the PSC report. Consumers Energy has even lowered its monthly renewable energy surcharge.

However, there’s still a long way to go. Michigan gets only about 3.6 percent of its electricity from renewables. And once the 10 percent by 2015 standard is met, Michigan will still be behind other states with higher standards, including Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota.

The PSC report concludes:

“The Commission is confident that Michigan has the potential to become a regional leader in development and manufacturing of renewable energy systems, building on the state’s engineering expertise, modernized machining, and investment in renewable energy in coming years.

“It appears that the Michigan incentive REC provision in the standard is meeting its intended purpose to encourage developers to maximize the amount of Michigan equipment and labor.”

Comments (3)

Renewables are cheaper with massive subsidies. Stop those and they go as quiet as wind turbines on a muggy summer day when there isn’t a “breath of air”

By Rolf Westgard on Feb 25, 2012

Those solar panels are great at night or when they are covered with snow or desert dust and dirt. Tell us why they need mandated use and big subsidies. There is a reason solar is a tiny fraction of 1% of our total electric energy. And wind isn’t much better.

By Rolf Westgard on Feb 25, 2012

Rolf, it depends on what you consider a “massive” subsidy… I don’t think they compared with those historically handed out to coal, oil & nuclear. Why is it fair for those technologies (that couldn’t have made it & still don’t without them) to receive them, but not for any clean technologies? Also, obviously solar can’t produce at night, but thankfully our peak usage is generally when sun is at it’s peak as well. So, while it’s not a silver bullet, it’s one heck-of-a good bit of silver buckshot.

By PwrSavy on Feb 27, 2012