Environment Picture

Trivia Time: Michigan clean energy’s affordability

A revealing picture of where clean energy stands relative to coal-fired electricity in Michigan was illuminated in February through two new documents: Analysis from the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) and a revised renewable energy plan from Consumers Energy Co. (see front page story). Let’s see what’s true and what’s false:

1. Electricity generated from wind turbines in Michigan is more expensive than electricity from a new coal-fired power plant.

True: Because everyone knows that and we hear it
repeated all the time.

False: The PSC says wind costs $98.83 per megawatt hour (MWh) while new coal would cost $133. 

2. Laws passed in 2008 that require 10 percent of the utilities’ electricity come from renewable sources have increased electricity prices.

True: Again, everyone knows this!

False: PSC says there is “no indication” that the laws have had any impact on prices.

3. Electricity conserved through the state’s energy efficiency program costs ratepayers about one-tenth of the cost of buying that same electricity from a new coal plant.

True: The cost of energy optimization is about $13.25/MWh compared to new coal’s $133.

False: Conserving electricity is for wimps, and people who don’t own stock in power companies.

4. Consumers Energy originally estimated that it would cost $1.5 billion to meet the renewable energy standard by 2015. In February, it revised its estimate to $500 million. 

True: A two-thirds reduction in estimated costs.

False: Everyone knows renewable energy is prohibitively expensive, and this doesn’t support that antiquated myth.

5. The Michigan Environmental Council testified as early as 2009 that Consumers Energy’s estimated cost for renewable energy was too high.

True: In fact, MEC’s formal challenge resulted in a reduction in the utility’s renewable energy surcharge from $3 to $2.50 on residential customers. Turns out we were more right than we knew!

False: I believe Glenn Beck says environmentalists want to take our money, not conserve it.

6. New estimates will almost surely mean a reduction in the $2.50 residential surcharge for renewable energy on Consumers’ residential customers’ bills (and corresponding reductions in commercial and industrial rates).

True: We don’t want to say ‘we told you so,’ but we did.

False: This does not fit at all with the “renewable energy will bankrupt us” mantra.

7. The percentage of Michigan’s electricity generated from renewable sources rose from 2.9 percent in 2007 to 3.6 percent in 2009.

True: An even more dramatic increase is expected for 2010.

False: Not true.

8. Of the 74 regulated utilities and others required to meet the state’s renewable energy target of 10 percent electric generation from renewable sources by 2015, the Public Service Commission expects 71 of them to meet the goal.

True: That’s correct.

False: Opponents of the renewable energy bill said it would never work, so it can’t be true.

9. Part of the reduced cost of renewable energy is because wind turbine costs have been halved over the last 10 years, and their efficiency has doubled in five years.

True: Source is Grand Valley State University economics professor Paul Isley, quoted in the Muskegon Chronicle.

False: Source is Russ Harding of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, who in the same Chronicle story continued, incongruously, to criticize the high cost of renewable power.

10. Our job is done.

True: By 2015, our problems will be solved.

False: The opportunities to save ratepayers money through efficiency and provide a more sustainable mix of energy sources is still virtually untapped. The recent Consumers Energy estimates and PSC report are tremendous indications that we are moving in the right direction.

-Answers: Some of our quizzes are challenging. If you really need the answers to this one, we can't help you!
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