UPPER THUMB – Legislation that some say could increase the number of wind turbines in rural areas and end energy choice has passed the Michigan Senate, and will soon go before the House of Representatives.
Under current law, electric providers have to produce 10 percent of their power from renewable sources.
The bills would raise the minimum to 15 percent by the end of 2021 and set a non-binding goal of meeting 35 percent of Michigan’s electricity needs by 2025 through a combination of renewable energy and energy conservation.
State Rep. Edward J. Canfield (R-Sebewaing) said he has not read the legislation, and hasn’t made a final decision on whether to support it.
“I would be leaning toward non support because it’s asking for a mandate,” Canfield said. “That is not a good thing for out district. We need to have more renewable energy but don’t think the state should mandate it. That would increase wind turbines in our district.”
He also questions whether it’s a good idea to limit energy choice.
“We have to be good to our big energy providers because they provide energy, and we have to find some middle ground,” he said.
The bills are revisions to 2008 energy laws, and passed Thursday 26-10 and 26-11, with some Republicans in opposition.
Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), who represents Huron County, voted against Senate Bills 437 and 438, and could not be reached for comment Friday.
Canfield said a suggested goal would be better than a mandate.
Utilities would be required to submit a long-term plan to state regulators for review of how they will meet demand.
DTE Energy, Consumers Energy and smaller utilities would continue to be guaranteed 90 percent of power sales in their regions while competitors could keep up to 10 percent of the market – though critics, including some conservative advocacy groups and big companies such as U.S. Steel, said “choice” would effectively be killed.
“Ratepayers have kind of been left beside, alone,” said GOP Sen. Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, who voted against the utility-backed bills.
But one of the Republican sponsors, Senate Energy and Technology Committee Chairman Mike Nofs of Battle Creek, denied the charge and said utility competitors should show three years in advance that they have enough capacity.
“This legislation is not about what’s best for a few companies, organizations, or individuals – it’s about what’s best for the entire state of Michigan,” he said.
The debate will move to the House after legislators return from a two-week break for hunting and Thanksgiving.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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