Clean Energy Proponents Seek Support to Increase Renewables

A group of activists and organizations are looking to increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard to 30 percent by 2030, up from the current requirement of 15 percent by 2021.

The group, known as Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan, said in a statement about its launch that the increase helps protect Michigan’s clean air and water, curb utility costs for families, and drive the economy forward.

“Good paying jobs as solar installers and wind technicians will come from more renewable energy, said John Sarver, solar owner and member of the non-profit Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. “Eighteen other states have a renewable energy requirement greater than Michigan. We can do better and become a leader in promoting clean energy.”

As of September 2017, Michigan ranked third among all Midwest states in the number of clean energy jobs at 92,271, behind Illinois (119,395 jobs) and Ohio (105,443 jobs), a report released at the time showed. Michigan’s total represented an increase of 4,655 jobs from 2015-16, the report indicated.

The proposal would require electric providers to gradually increase the amount of renewable energy they provide, and the definition of renewable resources would include solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and municipal solid waste or landfill gas to reach that standard.

Petroleum coke – a substance derived from oil refining – as well as scrap tires, coal waste, or other hazardous waste would not qualify for meeting the standard under this proposal.

“These aspects of the proposal will provide public health and environmental protections for families in Michigan for generations to come and will strengthen and preserve our abundance of natural resources,” the group said in a statement.

Helping lead the campaign is John Freeman, executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association.

“As this campaign gets up and running, we are excited to work with many local leaders and activists who care about keeping the Great Lakes State a place where everyone can enjoy its natural beauty, while actively combating threats to our natural resources and public health,” Freeman said. “Our intent is to give the people of Michigan a voice in the climate debate, and this initiative will provide that opportunity.”

Since electric providers are permitted to charge customers for building renewable energy to meet the standard (known as a surcharge), the proposal would also require residential customers not be charged more than an average of $2 a month toward that cost.

At the end of 2016, the Michigan Legislature passed, and Governor Rick Snyder signed into law, two bills that revamped the state’s energy law. With regard to renewable energy, the laws had increased the renewable energy standard from 10 percent by 2015 to 15 percent by 2021 – a small gain for renewable proponents given that at the time, all electric providers in the state had not only met that standard but were exceeding it.

In addition, most providers in Michigan had removed their renewable energy surcharge because the cost was cheap compared to importing coal, and the federal government was providing a tax credit toward the creation and implementation of renewable energy sources.

Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan will present its petition for approval to the Board of Canvassers at its regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow and will begin collecting signatures immediately thereafter.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson