Environment Picture

Clean energy legislation signed by Governor: The economy and the environment win

Energy efficiency program a proven money-saver
A victory for Michigan’s environment and economy was secured in September with the adoption of new energy efficiency programming and the state’s first renewable energy standard.

Years of hard work by the Michigan Environmental Council and allies across the state helped put Michigan on the map with other states that are attracting jobs and moving into a new energy future with similar programs.

The efficiency measures will reduce electricity costs for Michigan businesses and residents, while the renewable energy standard will begin to diversify the state’s sources of energy generation and provide a hedge against increasing costs for coal, uranium and other imported fuel. All told, Michiganders send more than $24 billion each year to other states and nations to import fuel.

Both measures will reduce global warming emissions and dangerous pollutants like mercury, and provide in-state jobs for those who design, install and maintain clean energy technologies and systems.

The legislation, passed by bipartisan votes, is the first step toward making Michigan a national leader in renewable energy research and commercialization—a vision shared by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and numerous environmental, public health and economic development advocates across Michigan.

“This package is a good initial move toward making Michigan competitive in energy savings programs and clean, homegrown power,” said Lana Pollack, president of the Michigan Environmental Council. “Michigan ratepayers currently send significant chunks of their paychecks out of state to buy fuel from other nations and states. This legislation will keep some of that money here, paying Michigan contractors, engineers and installers and financing the construction and operation of wind turbines, solar power systems and alternative energy ventures.”

The bipartisan package includes:
  • A requirement of 10% renewable energy generation by 2015. This puts Michigan in competition with 27 other states that have such policies—states that have an advantage in attracting new energy entrepreneurs and jobs.
  • Energy efficiency programming requiring 1% annual reduction in electricity demand starting in the year 2012, and every year thereafter. A kilowatt-hour of energy costs three or four cents to conserve compared to ten cents or more to generate from a new power plant.
  • A planning process (Integrated Resource Planning) that makes it possible to factor public health and environmental impacts into proposals for new power plants and forces them to compete equally with alternatives, including energy efficiency programming and clean energy sources. When expensive, polluting new coal plants are forced to compete with energy efficiency and other options, they will likely lose, to the benefit of Michigan ratepayers.
The clean energy targets included in the legislation are not among the most ambitious when compared to the 27 other states with renewable standards. But they put Michigan on the playing field, say policy experts.

Numerous other states have increased their targets after discovering that their initial goals were too modest. The Michigan Environmental Council expects that Michigan will do the same.

“This legislation is not perfect, but it establishes Michigan as a player in the clean energy economy, one of the few sectors experiencing significant growth during the recent period of economic stagnation,” said David Gard, energy program director with the Michigan Environmental Council. “We expect to pursue more ambitious targets in the near future.”

A report released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in October projects that the number of green jobs in the nation could grow fivefold, to 4.2 million, by 2038 if aggressive steps are taken to develop alternative fuels, foster renewable energy and pursue efficiencies.

In job-starved Michigan, the new legislation is expected to be a catalyst for economic recovery. A January 2005 report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that energy efficiency programs in Michigan could create 11,380 jobs by 2020.

And according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a national renewable electricity standard of 20% by 2020 would produce a net gain of 4,900 jobs in Michigan. Renewable energy would create 2.3 times more jobs than generating electricity from new natural gas and coal power plants, the study concluded.

“This package is a winner on the economics and job-creation potential alone—before you even consider that it will reduce dangerous pollutants and slow the emission of global warming gasses,” said Gard.

Gard, Policy Director James Clift, and Energy Program Associate Tremaine Phillips were the core of MEC’s team that pressed for sound energy legislation. They were part of a broad coalition of organizations forged to press the legislature for sound policies. Those groups included environmental organizations, public health watchdogs and energy efficiency advocates.

The coalition and its members lobbied legislators, worked with state policy experts, coordinated grassroots support, purchased newspaper and radio advertising, testified at committee hearings, participated in workgroups, coordinated media messaging, conducted public town hall meetings and held rallies at the Capitol to help press the case for clean energy policies.

“The coalition was indeed bigger than the sum of its parts,” said Clift. “Despite some differences in organizational goals and bottom lines, it was the coalition’s willingness to fight for our common goals—on the same team and at the same time—that helped tip the balance.”
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