UPPER THUMB – With legislation likely to be signed by the governor that increases the mandate for renewable energy in Michigan, a local official says it’s someone else’s turn to host wind turbines.
“We’ve done our part,” said John Bodis, chairman of the Huron County Board of Commissioners. “Let them find some other place to build them.”
He added there isn’t much buildable land left among county-zoned townships for turbines.
“My preference would be that there be no mandate,” Bodis said.
He spoke recently with State Rep. Edward Canfield, R-Sebewaing, about the legislation.
“We spoke about it and that seemed to be a contentious issue with him,” Bodis said.
In the Michigan House of Representatives’ final voting session of the year, Canfield voted against Senate Bill 437 yesterday, which calls for requiring electric providers to produce 15 percent of their power from wind or other renewable sources by the end of 2021, up from 10 percent now.
The bill also set a non-binding goal of meeting 35 percent of Michigan’s power needs by 2025 through a combination of renewable energy and energy conservation.
“I really felt I had to vote my district on this,” Canfield said. “I don’t like to go against what the governor wants.”
“I took a lump for good policy by voting as the voters wanted me to vote.”
Senate Bills 437 and 438, which passed 79-28 and 76-31 with bipartisan votes in the House, then cleared the Senate 33-4 at night. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will sign the legislation, which has been one of his top priorities at a time when many coal-fired power plants are closing.
Canfield said that many people of Huron and Tuscola counties are against mandated renewable energy requirements.
“We’ve done our share in Huron and Tuscola counties,” Canfield said. “I’m not against wind energy. I want to protect our counties from being mandated to provide more.”
Renewable requirements should be spread around the state, he said.
“I believe in renewable energy. I want us to improve our renewable energy, but I don’t believe in mandates … Huron County has 400-plus windmills already.”
Michigan now uses between 12.5 and 14.7 percent renewable energy, Canfield said.
“The thought is that this is not going to affect our district, even though a mandate has occurred,” he added. “The governor says our area is not going to be unfairly put upon by this legislation.”
John J. Austerberry, manager of corporate communications for DTE Energy, said the proposed Filion wind park is the only thing on DTE’s development schedule for Huron County.
“There is nothing in the legislation that specifically requires a particular generating technology, and it doesn’t prescribe a specific location. We are looking at options across the state for additional development.”
Canfield voted for Senate Bill 438, which revises utility regulations.
He said it protects energy choice.
Canfield was against the original requirements of the bill, which he said would end energy choice.
“I think that we need to have some choice,” he said, noting that the legislation protects local school districts.
The 84th district would save $2 million on energy with the legislation, mostly in schools, Canfield said
“The legislation sustains the 10-percent electric choice market in Michigan while protecting energy reliability for all Michiganders,” Austerberry said. “It also supports the transition of the state’s energy infrastructure to modern, cleaner generating technologies with provisions to maintain affordability. It addresses these issues in a fair and constructive way and provides a framework for the state to plan for its own energy future.”
The legislation renames the 2008 Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act as the Clean and Renewable and Energy Waste Reduction Act.
Other than the renewable energy requirements, the bill would:
• Keep intact, at least through 2021, a requirement that utilities save a minimum amount of power each year with efficiency programs but also boost incentives for utilities that hit higher targets. “That is going to save a significant amount of money for businesses and homeowners across the state as they use less and less energy because their homes and their businesses are retrofitted to be able to manage their energy costs much better,” said Rep. Sam Singh, an East Lansing Democrat who also touted the higher green power requirement.
• Detail how state regulators would set capacity charges that customers of alternative suppliers, which supply the power through the utilities’ distribution systems, could have to pay to help meet peak reserve margins. A coalition of major companies and school districts that now buy in the choice market said it secured “guardrails” if a Public Service Commission process is used instead of one through a regional transmission entity.
• Specify that if customers return to their home utility, they could not go back to a competitor for six years. Because the 10 percent limit has been reached, more than 11,000 Consumers and DTE customers are in a queue waiting to buy from competitors. The legislation specifies that if market conditions change, competitors lose customers in mass to the utilities with no new customers to take their place and choice falls below 10 percent, that new ratio would become the cap for six years.
“This is a big win for our friends and neighbors and hometown residential ratepayers across the state and it’s a win for in-state Michigan energy,” said House Energy Policy Committee Chairman Aric Nesbitt, a Lawton Republican. “Everybody gave a little to produce what I think is a good long-term energy package.”
• Not apply – for now – a “grid” charge to new customers participating in a net metering program, instead requiring a study to determine an appropriate fee. These are residents and businesses with their own wind turbines, solar panels or other types of renewable sources that reduce their electric bills.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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