Michigan Democrats introduced legislation Thursday to double the state’s efficiency and renewable energy standards by 2022.
The “Powering Michigan’s Future” bill package, announced by a bicameral group of Democratic lawmakers in Lansing, heads to committee in both Republican-controlled chambers where it faces an uncertain future.
Michigan Republicans are looking to abandon the renewable energy standard (PA 295) that passed with bipartisan support in 2008.
When the 10 percent renewable energy standard levels off at the end of the year, both Republican chairs of energy committees want to move to an Integrated Resource Plan process, saying that could drive utilities to pursue renewable and efficiency efforts if it makes sense financially and to comply with federal emission regulations.
Clean-energy advocates have said the IRP process isn’t an effective substitute for standards, which they say provide a clearer market signal to utilities and developers. →
Over the past decade, Michigan communities have been hit with a one-two financial punch. One from declining property values and the subsequent loss of tax revenue, the other from steady declines in statutorily shared revenue from the state.
So it hasn’t exactly been easy for municipalities to pursue meaningful energy efficiency upgrades intended to save taxpayer money in the long run.
“When it comes to political willingness to do energy efficiency projects, that is a very low bar. Most communities want to make their buildings and their systems more energy efficient and when you talk to them about it, you don’t come across people who say we want to waste more energy,” said Conan Smith, executive director of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, which helps facilitate projects through the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office. Smith is also a county commissioner in southeast Michigan who represents Ann Arbor.
“Where the challenge arises is the financing structure. The way municipal financing structures work, it’s not likely they’re going to have a lot of excess revenue in the next decade. The question becomes: How do you get money to capitalize on these kinds of projects?” →
Activists protest a coal plant in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood in 2011. New reports highlight benefits to low-income residents from carbon reductions. (Photo by Rainforest Action Network via Creative Commons)
Low-income residents’ health and pocketbooks are disproportionately affected by burning fossil fuels, and they stand to benefit the most as states comply with federal carbon regulations, according to two new reports released last week.
Those findings run counter to coal industry campaigns suggesting the opposite — that low-income residents are facing rate increases as states and utilities comply with the Clean Power Plan, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Clean energy really benefits everyone — this is a pocketbook and a public health issue for these people,” said Katharine McCormick, NRDC’s Midwest advocate and author of the group’s latest report “Bridging the Clean Energy Divide.”
The NRDC is a member of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.
The NRDC presented its report in Lansing last week at a panel discussion sponsored by the Michigan League for Public Policy, a nonpartisan policy group for economic equality that also released a similar Michigan-focused report. →
The Consumers Energy headquarters in Jackson, Michigan. (Photo by Lane Montgomery via Creative Commons)
Michigan’s first proposed large-scale community solar program is coming under fire from clean-energy advocates who say it would prevent independent third parties from developing their own programs.
Within the next month, the Michigan Public Service Commission is expected to rule on Consumers Energy’s proposed 10 MW community solar pilot program, which would be the first program of its kind from one of the two major investor-owned utilities here. Smaller-scale projects are underway or in development elsewhere in the state.
But a group of clean-energy advocacy groups have intervened in the case before the MPSC, claiming that Consumers’ proposal would “monopolize” the community solar market, as the utility seeks to prevent independent third parties from developing projects within its service territory. →
Andrew Revkin at a climate march in Copenhagen in 2009. (via Creative Commons)
Environmental writer Andrew Revkin has worked for over 30 years as an author, reporter, columnist, instructor and songwriter.
His travels have taken him around the globe, covering topics from the murder of an environmental advocate in the Amazon rainforest to interference in science communication at the White House. But his start in covering global warming in the early ’90s was the basis for an overall theme of his sustainability coverage — how we as a species will survive on earth as population surges amid finite resources.
That is the context in which Revkin started his widely read Dot Earth blog while reporting for the New York Times, which he still updates regularly. About five years ago, Revkin transitioned to the paper’s editorial pages and has also moved to academia, where he is teaching the next generation of reporters as Pace University’s Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding.
Revkin was the keynote speaker at the Michigan State University Environmental Science and Policy Program’s “Fate of the Earth” symposium April 1. The conference schedule was filled with leading researchers on sustainability issues who all addressed the same theme that Revkin explores in his blog: How will the human race sustain itself on a planet with dwindling resources? →
A key component of energy proposals emerging from the Michigan legislature is that more robust long-term planning requirements for utilities can effectively replace renewable energy and efficiency standards.
Known as Integrated Resource Plans, Republicans in the House and Senate say requiring utilities to file these every three to five years will produce the most cost-effective resource mix into the future, eliminating the need for meeting goals under a renewable portfolio or energy efficiency mandate.
Formal IRPs are required in 28 states and come in various forms. Typically they are filed every two to five years and forecasts of supply, demand and other market factors can stretch upwards of 20 years.
While experts who follow clean-energy policies say such planning can be helpful in outlining long-term needs for utilities, some argue that — if the goal is expanding renewables or energy efficiency — IRPs are unable to produce the same results as clearly defined standards. Moreover, they are liable to become esoteric exercises in utility planning. →
Crews install a natural gas pipeline in southwest Michigan. The future price of gas is a critical variable in determining the cheapest way for states to meet EPA carbon rules. (Photo by Consumers Energy via Creative Commons)
Shifting natural gas prices are making it a challenge for states to place their bets on the most cost-effective and least risky ways to comply with impending carbon regulations.
Those prices could likely determine whether it makes sense to replace retiring coal generation with natural gas or renewable energy.
To help with that decision process, experts at the University of Michigan and a Lansing-based energy consulting firm have released a model to make that planning easier and more accessible to stakeholders beyond just utilities.
Specifically, the model considers the risks that would apply to ratepayers as states develop new combinations of energy sources and efficiency into their portfolios to meet requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
According to the study’s lead author, the model “changes a lot of the traditional arguments” about the costs utilities and ratepayers face for achieving compliance. →
Residents of Leelanau Township, Michigan, help install solar trackers at the Northport Creek Golf Course in October. (Photo courtesy Steve Smiley)
Ten percent of Michigan’s power will come from renewable sources by the end of this year. For a small community in the western tip of the state’s lower peninsula, though, that’s not enough.
A group of residents in Leelanau Township, which includes the village of Northport, are finalizing a goal of becoming a 100 percent clean energy community. A Renewable Energy Community Plan for the area, which has a total population of about 2,000, is meant to be a template for other small towns to use.
The community is already on its way toward the 100 percent goal, with a previously constructed community wind turbine that helps power a local wastewater treatment plant. There’s also the Northport Creek Golf Course, dubbed as the first solar powered golf course in the country. Other solar energy systems are planned for local agricultural operations, wineries and government facilities. →