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Senate passes renewable energy initiative for state government; A small first step

But the measure affects less than 1 percent of state’s electricity generation
Mar 27, 2008

Legislation requiring state government to purchase renewably generated electricity is a useful first step toward a statewide clean energy policy. But the measure, passed by the Michigan State Senate today, is primarily symbolic because it affects significantly less than 1 percent of the state’s electricity generation.

“It’s fine, as far as it goes,” said Dr. Marty Kushler of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. “But it’s really just a partial step. We expect the Senate and the House will follow this with additional legislation to require a statewide renewable energy standard and utility energy efficiency programs for customers. These additional more significant steps will be necessary to make Michigan competitive with other states that are attracting a new era of clean energy jobs.”

Independent studies show clearly that efficiency and renewables are better economic drivers and job creators than traditional coal power plants. A study released late last year by ACEEE concluded that appropriate legislation in Michigan would create a net employment increase of between 3,900 and 10,000 jobs over the next decade – the equivalent of 25 to 75 small manufacturing plants.

Twenty-five states already have adopted standards requiring utilities to generate a percentage of their power from renewable sources. Those are the states attracting new businesses devoted to wind energy, solar power, biomass technology and the myriad support jobs that accompany them.

Michigan has no such renewable energy commitment; however, bills under consideration would establish a statewide renewable standard, putting Michigan in the jobs game.

 “Michigan is behind the rest of the nation in far too many economic measurements these days for the legislature not to bring us up to competitive speed on energy,” said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. “Adopting good efficiency and renewable standards is a key step in forging a new Michigan engaged in the economy of the future.”

The alternative is a continued reliance on dirty and expensive coal technology, which spews global warming pollution into the atmosphere and contributes to mercury-laden fish, premature heart disease and debilitating childhood asthma.

Coal dependency also drains jobs and dollars out of Michigan to prop up other states’ coal mining and processing industries.

“Michiganders send $20 billion annually to other states and countries to import fuel like coal,” said Jan O’Connell of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “A strong statewide renewable energy standard combined with energy efficiency programming will help keep some of those billions in state.

“Would we rather send our money to a coal baron in Wyoming? Or to a wind turbine component contractor in Oakland County or a solar energy entrepreneur in Greenville?”

The state’s consideration of renewable energy standards is timely. Across the nation, dozens of proposed coal plants were scrapped in 2007 because of excessive cost to ratepayers; excessive air pollution and global warming gas emissions; determinations that the alternative energy sources and conservation were cheaper and more efficient; and voter rejection.

State House legislation that is expected to be voted on within the next several weeks would require 10 percent renewable electricity generation by 2015. Another bill would require utility energy efficiency programs to help customers save energy.  Together, these bills would provide a vital economic stimulus package for the state’s dormant economy.

“Michigan can move into the 21st century with clean energy by adopting strong enforceable targets for renewable energy and cheap, clean energy efficiency,” said Danielle Korpalski of Environment Michigan. “The legislature needs to add to these initial small steps by the Senate, and seize the opportunity to make renewable energy and energy efficiency the twin pillars of Michigan's environmental and economic policies.”

James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-256-0553

Dr. Martin Kushler, Americans for an Energy Efficient Economy: 517-256-5380

Jan O’Connell, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter: 616-956-6646

Danielle Korpalski, Environment Michigan: 734-662-9797

Abby Rubley, Michigan League of Conservation Voters: 517-420-6777

David Holtz, Clean Water Action: 313-300-4454

Dr. Mike Shriberg, Ecology Center: 734-761-3186 x108
RELATED TOPICS: clean energy, green economy
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