Environment Picture

Embracing Clean Energy

Setting the stage for a clean energy strategy

A key focus of our energy program is laying the groundwork for policies that will shape Michigan’s energy system long into the future.

We need a comprehensive strategy because Michigan’s clean energy laws, passed in 2008 with strong leadership from MEC, are set to reach a plateau. They require our utilities to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2015 and achieve annual electricity savings of 1 percent. The power companies have met those targets, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and generating billions of dollars in new investment in Michigan along the way. To keep that stunning economic development on track and continue shrinking Michigan’s carbon footprint, we need new legislation that maps out a comprehensive clean energy policy for our state’s future.

Led by Energy Program Director Sarah Mullkoff and Policy Director James Clift, MEC has argued in testimony, in the media and in meetings with decision makers that a viable long-term energy strategy must control costs, protect ratepayers from price spikes, ensure excellent reliability and promote economic development, all without compromising public health or our environment.

At Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) proceedings, we argued against coal’s continued viability as an energy source and in favor of clean energy alternatives. Financial support from friends like you has enabled MEC to build a strong legal team and establish a role as an influential intervener in MPSC cases. Our job there is to represent Michigan residents’ best interests by challenging utilities’ attempts to inflate the cost of renewable energy, discount the cost savings of energy efficiency programs or build unneeded power plants that saddle customers with higher rates.

That work paid off in 2014 when Consumers Energy eliminated the charge it added to customer bills for renewable energy. The company had already reduced that surcharge twice since 2008, as MEC and allies demonstrated to MPSC regulators that the true cost of clean energy was lower than anticipated, and falling all the time.

Another notable success was the MPSC’s creation—at the urging of MEC and our partners—of a Solar Working Group to develop a fair rate for consumer-generated solar power. We met as part of that body and helped produce a report that stressed the exceptional value and economic development potential of solar power. (We also practiced what we preached by taking the first steps toward installing solar panels on the rooftop at MEC headquarters.)

Under the Capitol dome, meanwhile, we have promoted ideas that will lead to greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable power. MEC’s role as an energy policy leader in Lansing earned us a seat at the table when Senate Energy and Technology Committee chairman Mike Nofs assembled a work group to shape his energy reform package. We have met with this group of utility executives, clean energy entrepreneurs, manufacturers and other stakeholders, and made a compelling case for strengthening Michigan’s commitment to energy efficiency and renewable power.

We also participated in the “Adopt a Decision Maker” project organized by our partners in the Midwest-wide RE-AMP network of climate advocates. Armed with RE-AMP polling that showed 80 percent of Michiganders were more likely to support candidates who favored clean energy policy, Sarah met with numerous candidates for office to bring them up to speed on energy policy. Introducing MEC to these leaders early in their legislative careers helps them to recognize our organization as a respected voice and helpful resource for anyone who shares our focus on solutions.

Helping homeowners invest in clean energy
Lawmakers approved a bill allowing customers of municipal utilities to take loans for clean energy investments in their property and pay it back on their bill. Signed into law by Gov. Snyder, it’s an important boost to help homeowners cover the upfront cost of better insulation, rooftop solar panels or other clean energy projects. We’re working to expand this program to include customers of all Michigan utilities.

Building support for 25 percent renewable energy standard
A bipartisan group of legislators proposed a bill package late in 2014 that reflected priorities MEC spent the year promoting. The legislation would increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard to 25 percent over the next decade and ramp up annual energy savings targets, among other positive provisions. While the bills didn’t get a committee hearing, they provided a solid starting point for ongoing energy policy debates.

Blocking “renewable energy” scrap tires
MEC and our partners blocked an attempt to change the state’s legal definition of “renewable” energy sources to include scrap tires, railroad ties and other hazardous waste. This ugly proposal would have put at risk the health of Michiganders and the success of homegrown companies providing legitimate renewable energy. Fortunately, our messages got through and the Senate declined to take up the bill before the clock ran out on the legislative session.
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