March 18, 2013

Union of Concerned Scientists Expert to Testify at Kalamazoo Energy Forum

Michigan Must Extend and Strengthen Its Clean Energy Policies

KALAMAZOO, MICH. (March 18, 2013) – Union of Concerned Scientists’ Midwest Office Director Steve Frenkel will call for Governor Rick Snyder (R) and the legislature to extend and strengthen the state’s clean energy policies at the governor’s energy forum at Western Michigan University today.

The forum is one of a number of meetings the governor’s office is convening around the state to solicit public input on the state’s energy future.

“We applaud the governor for developing this process, but these listening sessions need to lead to decisive legislative action in 2014,” said Frenkel. “Specifically, the governor must extend and strengthen the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards that are otherwise set to expire in 2015.”

“Michigan’s clean energy businesses need certainty to continue investing and expanding. Without certainty that there’ll be a market for clean energy in Michigan, fewer jobs will be created, investment will lag and development will stall,” said Frenkel.

Last month, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued a report documenting the economic boost the current renewable electricity standard has given the state. For example, development of Consumers Energy’s first wind farm, Lake Winds Energy Park, brought $232 million in new investments to Michigan. The project generated $10 million in local economic benefits and employed 150 workers in the development and construction of the project.

The public service commission also reported that Detroit utility company DTE Energy’s investment in three wind parks will contribute $150 million in economic benefits to Michigan.

Meanwhile, renewable energy costs continue to decline well below the cost of electricity from new coal plants and are comparable to electricity from new natural gas plants.

Regarding energy efficiency, the public service commission issued another report last November that found $205 million was invested by gas and electric utilities in 2011. These investments to reduce energy use saved enough electricity to power 1.5 million homes for a year and enough gas to heat 40,000 homes for a year. The $205 million invested will save customers at least $709 million, or $3.55 for every dollar invested. In addition, the drop in statewide energy use will cut future costs for all customers, whether they made efficiency improvements through a utility program or not.

Energy efficiency programs have also led to cleaner air in Michigan. The November study showed the standards resulted in the avoidance of more than 2.2 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, 13 million pounds of sulfur dioxide and 6 million pounds of nitrogen oxide being emitted into Michigan’s air in 2011 alone.

“The state’s clean energy standards are working,” said Frenkel. “And Michigan has only begun to scratch the surface in developing its renewable and energy efficiency resources.”

Michigan’s renewable energy standard ranks as one of the least aggressive in the region, calling for utilities to produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. The state’s energy efficiency standard is in the middle of the pack, mandating a 1 percent reduction per year. By comparison, other states in the Midwest are looking toward 25 or 30 percent renewables and 2 percent annual reductions in energy consumption over the next decade. 

“Research shows that there is enough renewable energy potential in Michigan to meet nearly twice its electricity demand even when economic and physical limitations are taken into consideration,” said Frenkel. “And we all know that more can be done with energy efficiency.”

“If Michigan fails to extend and strengthen its renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, it will lose out to other states around the region with more ambitious standards. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this conversation, but the rubber needs to hit the road with more robust policies in 2014,” said Frenkel.

After delivering his testimony today, Frenkel will head to Lansing to meet with a number of state officials on Tuesday, March 19 and Wednesday, March 20. To schedule an interview with Frenkel in Lansing, please contact Sarah Goldberg at sgoldberg@ucsusa.org.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.