LANSING, MI – Energy industry members, environmental activists and others crowded into an auditorium at the Library of Michigan for the first of seven public forums scheduled throughout the state to collect data and testimony on Michigan’s energy issues.
Gov. Rick Snyder called for a one-year study after voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have amended the constitution to require Michigan utilities to derive at least 25 percent of their annual electric retail sales from clean renewable sources by 2025.
Current law requires 10 percent renewable energy by 2015.
“We’re well on our way to meeting our target, and the question facing us in the state is where do we go next?” said John Quackenbush, chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission.
Meetings will be held in Grand Rapids, University Center, Kalamazoo, Detroit, Marquette and Traverse City. (See schedule and agendas here.) The state also is asking the public to submit comments online.
State energy officials will use the feedback to compile a report that it will release toward the end of the year. Snyder says he’ll use the findings to make recommendations on Michigan’s energy future in December.
Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor spoke at the meeting about his two young daughters, and how they play a factor in his decision-making on energy issues.
“They’re going to be living and breathing air for a long, long time. At the same time, they’re going to be paying electric bills for a long, long time,” he said, explaining that he’s interested in finding a balance between environmental concerns and cost.
Utility officials along with representatives from an energy efficiency program, industrial electric customer group and environmental organization gave presentations before opening up for public comment.
A moving target for renewable energy and efficiency goals is tough on utilities, said Jim Weeks, executive director of the Michigan Municipal Electric Association.
“The more often that we change the foundational legislation under which we operate, I would say creates inefficiencies in how we go forward,” he said. “Because these are high-cost generation or long-term power purchase agreements that we are investing in, we certainly like to have more stability in being able to know what that future is.”
Members of the Sierra Club donned “I heart Clean Air” T-shirts at the meeting.
“Moving towards more renewable and energy efficiency means cleaner air for Michigan and cleaner water for Michigan, and also improved public health,” said Tiffany Hartung, campaign representative for the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.