Environment Picture

Embracing Clean Energy

Protecting ratepayers with smart energy choices

Protecting ratepayers from escalating costs while moving toward more diverse, cleaner resources to meet our energy needs is the focus of the Michigan Environmental Council’s energy policy work.

Michigan faces critical investment decisions that will determine the shape of our energy future, and ultimately our economic future. There are clear choices and the stakes are high; we will pay for results of short-sighted decisions for decades. MEC’s efforts are aimed at achieving the optimal transition away from dependence on old, polluting coal units to a newer, cleaner, more efficient, and more distributed energy system. The goal is a stronger economy, healthier communities, and more reliable energy costs.

Forging partnerships across the energy spectrum, MEC helped accelerate Michigan’s move toward cleaner, more stable energy solutions in 2011 while laying the groundwork for stronger policies in coming years. Achieving actual, tangible results requires bridging sectors—public and private—and decision-making levels, a role clearly in MEC’s wheelhouse. We are connectors; conveners who bring together critical voices from various perspectives who should all be talking.

Reaching out to the Snyder administration
MEC set our sights on building an effective partnership with the new administration of Gov. Rick Snyder to advance smart energy priorities. Given the new governor’s background as a successful entrepreneur who understands risk, we saw an opportunity to convey Michigan’s story about energy decisions as a story of smart investment with big economic payoff. We met with new Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) chairman John Quackenbush before Thanksgiving to begin to share our perspective. Gov. Snyder also tapped Valerie Brader to lead his energy strategy development. MEC and our allies have made it a priority to build a good working relationship with Ms. Brader. She keynoted our annual meeting, providing our members direct access to the administration’s thinking on energy policy.

Working through regulations
MEC continued our valuable “inside game” working through the MPSC process to ensure that the state’s renewable energy standard is effectively implemented. Successful implementation of the law creating the standard brings direct benefits of cost-effective renewable energy and energy efficiency to Michiganders. In this work, MEC and our legal and technical allies leverage their knowledge and expertise to make a difference. The value of the renewable energy standard was validated when the MPSC reported that 2011 utility investments in renewable energy were cheaper than building a new coal plant would have been.

Analyzing coal’s health costs
In the summer of 2011, MEC’s “Cost of Coal” report showed that pollution from the state’s oldest coal plants annually cost Michiganders $1.5 billion in health care expenses and damages, result in dozens of premature deaths, and cause 72,000 instances in which children were restricted from school or other activities due to asthma and other pollution-related effects. The report was unveiled at a meeting that included dozens of legislators and their aides. It continues to be cited frequently in Michigan energy policy discussions.

Keeping watch over utility programs
Utility energy efficiency programs—required by the 2008 energy laws that MEC helped pass—continued to deliver the most cost-effective results for ratepayers. MEC continued to watchdog the efficiency programs. A 2012 Public Service Commission analysis showed that efficiency measures met energy needs at a cost of less than one-fifth that of conventional generation.

Engaging locally
MEC recognizes that small, more locally connected utility companies play a vital role. We continued to work with partners, including the Lansing Board of Water and Light (LBWL) to optimize their future energy plans. MEC worked with LBWL staff and our national partner Clean Energy Ambassadors to organize a daylong seminar aimed at strengthening outreach to key market segments in the community.

Collaborating throughout the Midwest
MEC staff continued to play a leadership role in RE-AMP, a nationally recognized collaboration of 146 not-for-profit advocates and foundations with the shared goal of achieving significant reductions of carbon pollution in the upper Midwest. MEC Energy Policy Director David Gard serves on the RE-AMP steering committee. 2011 saw the hiring of a new network coordinator (a former MEC board member) and an assistant, both housed at MEC.

Creating new opportunities
A massive new coal-burning power plant proposed for Bay City was shelved by Consumers Energy in 2011, opening the door for better alternatives, including wind and efficiency. MEC played a supporting role in the victory, which was spearheaded by the Sierra Club and local citizen groups.

Federal policy
While MEC was most aggressively engaged at the state level, we continued to reach out to Michigan’s Congressional delegation to encourage sound energy policies at the federal level.
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