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Renewable energy users may get tax cut; $100 break would offset cost of power, lawmakers suggest

Some lawmakers want residents to go green – energywise, that is.

They’ve proposed giving residents who buy renewable energy an annual $100 tax break.

Many power companies offer customers the option to buy renewable energy instead of regular electricity. It can be generated from wind turbines, solar power, biodigesters or hydroelectric dams. According to state officials, 3 percent of the state’s energy is now generated from renewable resources.

One sponsor has said the measures would help offset the high cost of renewable energy that deters some consumers from purchasing a green-energy plan.

“Tax incentives provide an incentive for Michigan families to use green energy,” said Rep. John Moolenaar R-Midland, the bill’s lead sponsor. “It could help expand the options for people hoping to purchase green energy.”

Mark Nixon, communications director for the Lansing Board of Water and Light, said he supports the idea. “We hope it would drive down the cost,” he said.

Nixon said that less than 2 percent of his company’s electricity comes from renewable energy, and 500 of its 97,000 customers buy that energy.

“It’s obviously a very small amount,” Nixon said.

But he has some concerns, too. If the proposal passes, “will there be all the green-energy available for families that want to use green-energy?” he asked.

Some environmentalist say the tax break wouldn’t do much to boost renewable energy use.

Martin Kushler, director of the utilities program at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, said the approach is “nibbling around at the edges” of the renewable energy debate and would affect only a small percentage of the population.

More effective, he said, would be to require that a specific amount of an energy company’s electricity be generated from renewable resources, adding that states that follow that approach have been successful in expanding renewable energy. Twenty-four states take such an approach.

“That accounts for a much bigger impact,” Kushler said.

Last month, the Michigan Public Service Commission drafted the 21st Century Energy Plan at the request of Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The plan emphasizes ways to meet the state’s future electric energy needs through creation of a renewable energy portfolio and energy-efficient measures.

David Gard, energy program director for the Michigan Environmental Council, said public money shouldn’t be used to promote energy plans that benefit private citizens.

If the state “is going to spend public money, let’s put it into the state’s best use,” he said.

By Brian McVicar
Capital News Service


27 February 2007