Michigan a New Battle Ground for Renewables

June 27, 2012

Not long ago I sat in a room with a number of environmental activists and high level managers for a large Michigan Utility.  We were cordial, we are friendly, we agree on lots of things, and agree to disagree on others. They are nice people. They’ve invited me into their headquarters, twice now, to talk about climate change.

I want them to succeed. Because the last thing Michigan needs is another large corporate citizen on the ropes. That’s why I’m so disappointed that they are opposing the new “25 by 25” initiative, which would commit Michigan to 25 percent renewable energy, and put the nation’s premier manufacturing state on the leading edge of the renewable revolution.

Stephen Lacey at ClimateProgress: 

Moving into the election season, Michigan has become ground zero for the disinformation campaign against renewable energy.

In an effort to expand the state’s renewable energy targets,a coalition of environmental groups and local businesses is gathering signatures for a November ballot initiative that would increase Michigan’s renewable electricity standard to 25 percent by 2025.

But that’s not sitting well with large power companies and the Chamber of Commerce.

Yesterday, a group backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and two of the state’s largest utilities rolled out a campaign to stop the ballot initiative before it truly begins.

The group’s messaging, which contradicts real-world experience with renewable energy deployment in Michigan and surrounding states, is typical for the heel-dragging, climate change-denying Chamber of Commerce. Even with the overwhelming positive economic evidence and the diverse range of businesses supporting an increase in renewable energy in the state, the Chamber and its utility allies say they’re ready to put up a big fight.

They’re not fighting with much evidence on their side.

Last week, 120 companies operating in Michigan signed a letter supporting the ballot initiative increasing the state’s renewable electricity standard. Proponents of the initiative say the increase in renewable energy would spur billions in economic activity and potentially create tens of thousands of jobs.

In February, Michigan’s Public Service Commission issued a report showing that the state’s current renewable electricity standard requiring 10% penetration by 2015 had spurred already $100 million in economic activity. The report also showed a remarkable trend seen throughout the rest of the country: the cost of wind, solar, and hydro “is cheaper than a new coal-fired generation” in the state.

That changing equation is making renewable energy far more cost-effective for ratepayers. In nearby Iowa and Minnesota — states with the second and fourth most wind energy respectively — a dramatic increase in wind installations has had a minimal impact on rates. In fact, a recent study in Iowa showed that the state’s 20% wind penetration was keeping rates below the national average — while also supporting more than 3,000 manufacturing jobs in the state.

Even with all this real-world experience, CARE for Michigan, which is tied to the state’s utilities, has undertaken a slick new campaign to stop the ballot initiative.

CARE’s campaign is publicly backed by the Michigan Jobs and Energy Coalition, which includes DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, and the Detroit Regional Chamber. CARE’s Treasurer was recently named DTE Energy’s Chief Accounting Officer, and her address listed in a recent CARE legal filing is the same as DTE’s headquarters.

“The big utilities fighting this are large bureaucratic entities that resist change,” said Mark Fisk, a spokesman for the advocacy campaign in favor of the increase renewable energy targets. “What the utilities aren’t telling people is the cost of doing nothing.”

Although proponents estimate a new target will add roughly $1.25 to the typical utility bill in Michigan, CARE is trying to stoke fears by calling additional targets “reckless.”

However, on multiple occasions since 2008, Consumers Energy reported that the cost of meeting Michigan’s renewable energy targets has been far lower than anticipated. In fact, just last month Consumers Energy reduced its renewable electricity surcharge by 13 cents. It reduced the surcharge in May of 2011 as well, citing the lower-than-expected costs to meeting targets. That move cut yearly costs to consumers by $5 million.

This is only one state ballot initiative. But it has national implications. With powerful political organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity, and Americans for Tax Reform focusing attention on state-level renewable energy targets around the country, they’ve started a concerted disinformation campaign on the cost of these programs.

Real world experience continually proves them wrong.

Assuming this initiative gets on the ballot in November, it offers a major choice for voters. Will they trust the word of companies trying to protect their own short-term self interest? Or will they trust the real, on-the-ground experience from states all over the country?


15 Responses to “Michigan a New Battle Ground for Renewables”

  1. jdouglashuahin Says:

    One can be left to wonder at just how many of these “Green Jobs” a nation that is basically broke and has an unemployment rate of over 8% can afford.
    ‘Green’ Company Awarded Up to $120 Million Promised 70 Jobs — Creates Just Three Jobs in Three Years

    The “Green Jobs” initiative cost $38.6 billion or $5 million per job and now through the Oversight Committee’s work we are learning more about how the Obama administration gambled away tax payer dollars to support their ideological interests.

    A $38.6 billion loan guarantee program that the Obama administration promised would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand jobs two years after it began, government records show.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Your first source is tHe mouthpiece for the now famous idiots who won’t let women use the word “vagina”.
      For a synopsis of an actual study that’s been done on green jobs, check the brookings institution findings here

      You embarrass yourself flinging info-poo like this here. Raise your game or go back to wuwt where third rate sources are appreciated. I’m very serious.

      • jdouglashuahin Says:

        It is interesting how you want to kill the messenger with your attack on my first source. It would appear that because you have your head so buried into reading what Joe Romm puts out that you didn’t see this in what I presented as a source.
        “Egan has worked with a group of citizens in the Kinross area to oppose the plant for fiscal and environmental reasons. The group, Alternate Energy Coalition, has been working with the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club to gather information and are seeking legal action against Mascoma.

        It appears that Mascoma is really doing well, doesn’t it? Bill Brady is doing OK and probably laughing all the way to the bank.
        “The S-1 document shows that Mascoma has accumulated a deficit of over $135 million and a revenue stream that is 86 percent from government grants. CEO Bill Brady was paid a total compensation of $5 million in 2010.”

        Here is what one of your hated energy companies has been doing and note that there is no tax payer money involved in their developing this additional oil from an old field.
        Chevron’s Solar-Powered Oil Extraction Begins in California

        I have no problem with alternate energy sources as I posted to you on an other occasion, such as hydro, geothermal that I first saw near Taupoe New Zealand that has been producing electricity since the 1970s and that the US Navy has been using at their China Lake Base’s geothermal Plant to produce both electricity and money for the government.

        “Currently, two geothermal power plants at China Lake are the only ones on military lands. A private company, which built, owns, and operates the power plants at China Lake, sells the electricity to a utility company and pays the Navy royalties on these sales as well as other types of compensation.”

        There is tidal produced power in use and there is always nuclear power and the thing that these sources have going for them is that they are dependable and predictable and that is something that T Boon Pickens found out that wind was not.

        Can you show that WUWT had one damn thing to do with what I posted to you? I do not need others to do my thinking for me and use logic to examine the issues and trying to expand unreliable energy sources or using food crops for energy is not logical.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          To suggest there is “no taxpayer money involved” in the oil industry, or nuclear for that matter, is a laugher.
          Subsidies to renewable energy, pitiful as they are, are meant to somewhat level the playing
          field with fossil fuels, which have received 100 years of public largesse – that somehow escapes
          criticism from so-called “conservatives”, who seem to have completely lost their minds, and any
          grounding in science and fact, on issues of climate and energy.
          Rather than fume about Joe Romm, “the messenger” in one of my resources, suggest you read, and
          refute, if you can, the referenced Brookings report – which, I think rises
          above the credibility of the right wing rag you rely on. Renewables are creating jobs, lowering costs,
          and building economies around the world, including some of the most advanced manufacturing
          economies we know, Germany, and Denmark ( Denmark, – happiest people in the world according to polls, and one
          of the best places for doing business, according to Forbes). We can ignore that fact at our peril, and
          long for the Dickensian good old days of Satanic mills and black lungs, but fortunately
          the economics are taking us into a revolution that will not be stopped.
          Luddites such as yourself can help to slow it down, and insure that the US does not
          lead the charge, but we are going there nonetheless. Suggest you adjust yourself accordingly.

  2. ahaveland Says:

    Sounds like a few billionaires screaming threats and orders down the phone to their minions really do have the power to corrupt common sense, but what is it with these dinosaurs that want business as usual and sod the consequences?

    Why can’t people just adapt instead of fighting to the death for a flawed position?

  3. otter17 Says:

    As much as my Ohio DNA tells me to root against Michigan, I do wish all the best for that “25 by 25″ initiative. I think it would be cool to see Detroit as a revived clean transportation and renewable generation powerhouse.

  4. Me: “The Republicans, unlike us, have got balls, folks.”….
    Greenman: speak for yourself, my friend.”

    So, in this article, above, we what dealing with for-profit utilities is like. And these are the folks you want to rely on for a market solution to our energy problems. No doubt, all will work out for the planet with time to spare.

    Do you think that it might be time, it just might possibly be a smart strategy to start a national conversation on why now is a damned good time to start talking about nationalizing our energy infrastructure? So that the germ of the concept might have time to gestate and bear fruit before it is too late?

    Do you think that an argument, that energy infrastructure nationalization as a consequence of national security is long overdue, just might resonate with people?

    Do you think asshole energy companies like these maroons in Michigan just might get the message that getting in the way of needed progress – for the sake of personal profit – just might not be the prudent thing to do?

    You boasted, in a recent thread (above), that you have balls. Do you have enough balls to think big? Do you have enough balls to argue for what you believe is in the best interest of our country and planet, instead of settling, without a real fight, for what is merely politically easy?

    Do you not see that if the national conversation is about nationalization, even if it is not realized, that our goals become infinitely easier to attain, because we would not have to deal with obstructionary for-profits?

    • jdouglashuahin Says:

      Roger Lambert; I have been thinking this for awhile now that the energy companies should just say to hell with it, no more research, no more discovering resources and just quit producing any thing. Then the government could nationalize the industry and run it they way they run other government agencies. They have done a great job not being able to deliver a letter or any other mail.

      “This doesn’t mean, however, that the USPS’s financial situation is good. Revenue has been declining for years, and even if the agency manages to get past this year’s $5.5 billion payment, it would again face insolvency next year.”

      Meanwhile this is what Fed X did:
      “Price increases, fuel surcharges and scrappy marketers helped boost revenue 10 percent while worldwide deliveries rose 2 percent for the Memphis-based cargo carrier.”

      UPS (UPS), the world’s biggest shipping company, said fourth-quarter net income nearly tripled from a year ago, as brisk holiday business and lower costs more than offset a decline in revenue.

      There is no doubt that the government could do just as well as they have done with the postal service if they took over the energy sector and why should anyone care, any more if the lights go on or there is go juice for the old ride?

      • greenman3610 Says:

        jesus. a postal service crank.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        Are you really that ignorant of the burden that was foisted onto the USPS?
        Have you never heard of HR 1351?
        Go ask that asshole Issa how he justifies blocking the proposed fixes.

        And how much does UPS charge to deliver that Happy Birthday card to grannies in rural Montana?

        Has UPS fully funded all company pensions out to 2099? How many of their employees even qualify?

  5. Nice to see COC consistent over the decades as Upton Sinclair wrote of the “Black Hand” mediated by COC to blackball workers. Ironically, COC kills small business, destroys the environment, and harms business and workers.

    Have no illusions. Renewable energy will win, just because it makes sense economically. However, there are no true free markets, and tanking fossil fuel companies and businesses are going to fight back with ridiculous campaigns like “Clean Coal” and funding Heartland. They have the the money and they are going to lobby (bribe) every ambitious (greedy) politician in Washington (on a junket in Jamaica).

  6. Roger – economic change is coming, too. Yes, it needs to happen. Its in the math. Our economies are based on percentage growth rates. Banks, business, government, all of use them. Annual percentage growth rates means exponential growth, (doubling growth every X years). Governments gauge economic health in terms of annual growth. If growth is less, the economy is considered to be ill. In a world with growing shortages of all commodities and a burgeoning population, exponential growth, and thus the current socio, political, economic infrastructure are impossible. Instead, a new economy has to consider a clean environment and sustainable renewable energy system as valuable, something the present economic system has to be artificially tweaked to represent. There are already discussions of what will replace the old economics to these ends. Watch the video and see how percentage annual growth is impossible.

    You are quite correct to assert that technological solutions will not solve the fundamental problem of sustainability. Any new economic system must be compatible with a steady state flow between renewable resources and demand. Than means zero population growth, and much, much, more.

  7. n8chz Says:

    What’s your take on DTE Energy’s net metering brochure? Hopefully it’s an outdated document, in a good way. It seems to me like a rather low ceiling. Is it typical of what you find yourselves dealing with?

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I would not automatically assume that this is a problem. I am not familiar with DTE’s net metering efforts, but I think every utility knows that this is the future in some respect. Consumer’s Energy has an advanced net metering program that is being rolled out incrementally, so as to work out the bugs – there seem to be some pretty smart people involved, so I think this will move forward.
      I interpret their opposition to the renewable standard as more or less garden variety institutional inertia.

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