With Michigan on track to meet its 10 percent renewable energy target this year, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a new target: obtaining, by 2025, 30-40 percent of the state’s energy needs through renewable energies and energy waste reduction.
In a memo Snyder posted for legislators, he wrote that Michigan has the 11th most aggressive renewable energy portfolio in the nation. The state reached those targets under budget, he wrote, thanks to programs to reduce energy waste and price reductions for renewable energy technology.
With 10 coal plants scheduled to be retired in the next few years due to age, and energy demands continuing to increase, Snyder said he wants to see a move toward more wind energy, solar energy and natural gas for power needs.
“Decisions we make in the coming years will keep energy more affordable and available through a variety of sources while we continue being good stewards of our lakes, air and land,” Snyder said in a statement. “We also must ensure that Michigan – not Washington, D.C. – will determine how we move forward, transitioning from the sources of yesterday to newer, cleaner methods.”
With plants closing and an energy framework in place discouraging utilities from replacing those, he said the state needs to loosen those restrictions and move away from coal.
Under Snyder’s proposal, 15 percent of the total energy goal would come from efficiency increases, and he said in a statement that he wants the Legislature to discuss programs to help people and businesses replace older, inefficient windows, insulation and furnaces, among other items.
According to Snyder, Michiganders in 2009 used 38 percent more energy – consisting of heating and electricity – than the national average, leading to bills that were 6 percent above the national average. The state’s low cost of natural gas is the reason for that discrepancy, he said.
If natural gas ends up costing more than renewable energy technology, the governor said in his report, Michigan could hit 40 percent of its energy mix from renewables and efficiency efforts; otherwise, it would only be 30 percent.
Another aspect to closing coal plants and replacing them with natural gas or renewable energy, Snyder said, is that environmental pollution would be reduced, including mercury and acid rain.
State Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, said that Snyder’s plan differs somewhat from the Democrats’ plan, which calls for 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2022. On the whole, though, it is close enough that he said he and his fellow Democrats are on board.
“We feel we had a more obtainable goal for renewable energy by 2022, but that’s basically the only difference that I know of,” Chirkun said. “It differs a little bit than the one the Democrats rolled out, but all in all it’s mostly the same.”
Snyder suggested that communities could move toward more energy-efficient light-emitting diode, or LED, public lighting; better insulate old homes and buildings; and use new equipment in industrial locations, as long as people have access to the funding to do it.
He said the state needs to do more to make electric and gas service reliable. Snyder is proposing that more energy companies put out “smart” meters that can help utilities locate outage locations quickly, and infrastructure upgrades to keep the power grid and gas pipelines running smoothly.
Chirkun said the only other thing he is concerned about is not from the state’s side of things, but rather federal carbon pollution regulations leading to coal plant closures.
Old plants cannot necessarily be brought up to the new efficiency standards in an economically viable way, and Chirkun said he is concerned that the price of electricity may go up if those close without any replacements.
“I think they should have their plan in place before they start knocking the coal plants offline,” he said. “I know environmentalists want to knock all of them offline, but you’re talking about lost jobs and the cost of electricity rising.”
Snyder is also planning on signing an executive order to create a state agency dedicated to the state’s energy needs.
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