Environment Picture

Embracing Clean Energy

Michigan’s clean energy success story: Continuing the momentum

No area of public policy so directly affects Michiganders’ quality of life as energy. The health of our communities and children; the ‘amount due’ on monthly utility bills; the cleanliness of our lakes and streams, and the legacy of climate disruption we leave—all are downstream effects from the policies we adopt. Or that we fail to adopt.

The absence of comprehensive state or federal energy blueprints leaves a void that is typically filled by a dysfunctional status quo that too often rewards the most dangerous, outdated and expensive energy choices.

That dynamic is changing and MEC is helping accelerate that change. Cleaner, renewable energy and money-saving efficiency programs are gaining a bigger share of Michigan’s energy marketplace. But the laws that jump-started these successes—measures requiring 10 percent renewable electricity and targeted efficiency gains—plateau in 2015.

That’s why in 2013, the Michigan Environmental Council doggedly pursued strategies to continue the clean energy momentum.

Key stakeholders in energy dialogues

MEC was a key participant in Governor Rick Snyder’s 2013 energy fact-finding meetings hosted by the State Energy Office and the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). The dialogues gathered facts that will inform Snyder’s recommendations to the legislature on how to proceed after the energy laws plateau in 2015.

MEC encouraged Governor Snyder and decision makers to continue the clean energy trajectory that has seen renewable energy costs halved since 2008, helped reduce our dependence on out-of-state coal, created thousands of in-state jobs, and brought an unprecedented amount of renewable power to Michigan’s marketplace.

We testified, coordinated others’ testimony, and worked behind the scenes with legislators and gubernatorial staffers. We highlighted for the governor key studies, including data from MEC reports on the relative costs of renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Our presentations also documented the health care costs and natural resource damages that are currently ignored by energy markets. Along with allies in the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs (MEMJ) coalition, MEC made a strong case for more clean energy as a way to control costs, minimize risk, promote economic development, and protect public health and natural resources.

Our efforts got a boost late in the year when an MPSC analysis showed Michigan could generate 30 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

Lowering surcharges for renewable energy

Working through our intervention in state Public Service Commission cases, MEC helped convince the state’s largest utilities to drop renewable energy surcharges for Michigan customers. The charges—initially proposed at $3.00/month for residential customers in 2009—have been slashed as clean energy costs have dropped dramatically.

By the end of 2013, Consumers Energy had planned to eliminate its renewable energy charge completely. Detroit Edison had dropped its rate to 43 cents.

The rate reductions are good for consumers, good for the utilities and good for Michigan’s natural resources.

Risky pipeline targeted

An aging oil pipeline carrying more than 20 million gallons of crude oil daily underneath the iconic Mackinac Bridge earned MEC’s attention in 2013. We joined with allies across the nation and state in calling for replacement of the 1953 pipe to protect the Mackinac Straits and entire Upper Great Lakes from a catastrophic spill. The pipeline is owned and maintained by Enbridge Energy, the company responsible for a devastating spill of 840,000 gallons of thick oil sands crude in the Kalamazoo River system in 2010.

We helped organize a rally at the bridge, researched the complicated web of regulations and regulatory agencies overseeing pipelines in Michigan, and worked with state and federal agencies and officials to pressure Enbridge to upgrade the pipeline.

MEC was also active on numerous energy-related fronts in 2013, including:
  • Working to persuade state regulators to modernize safety standards for extraction of natural gas using increasingly risky hydraulic underground fracturing (fracking) techniques.
  • Helping convince Consumers Energy to abandon its controversial proposal for a new natural gas plant in favor of using existing natural gas capacity to fill its need.
  • Helping drop Michigan’s expensive imports of out-of-state coal to fuel power plants to less than 50% in 2013, down from 65% only a few years earlier. That saves $30 million annually on diesel fuel required to mine and transport the coal.
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Clean Energy, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Wind Power

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