July 19, 2015

Electricity Customers in Michigan Could Choose How Much Renewable Energy They Want Under Senate Plan

Michigan customers could decide how much renewable energy they purchase under a much-anticipated Senate energy plan.

The energy proposal was more than a year in the making, and to the disappointment of environmental advocates, it does not include mandates for renewable energy or energy efficiency. But in a new twist in an old argument, people would be able to control their own renewable energy future.

Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, introduced the bill that would allow this option. He's worked closely with Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, who chairs the Senate Energy and Technology Committee and led a year-long workgroup on energy issues.

Proos said that both individual and business customers could elect to receive a certain amount of renewable energy at a different price point approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. If people are willing to pay for cleaner energy, the state's total renewable energy would increase.

"If the consumer marketplace is demanding more and more green energy, then you know full well that the market will respond to that demand," Proos said.

Michigan's energy law was last overhauled in 2008, and at that point the Legislature mandated that 10 percent of Michigan's total energy be renewable by 2015. The state is on track to meet that goal. For environmental groups, this optional green energy program doesn't replace that.

"I do think that Michigan residents will continue to demand renewable energy and more of it going into the future. I don't think that we can allow and just kind of hope and wish that utilities will reach their standards if just their customers are asking for it," said Jack Schmitt, Deputy Director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

He said in other states with programs like this, it's paired with a renewable energy mandate as well.
Andy McGlashen of the Michigan Environmental Council said the law would codify programs like DTE's Green Currents program and Consumers Energy's Green Generation program.

"It leaves it totally up to the utilities to decide what types and what amount of renewable energy are available. Since the overall thrust of the legislation is to roll back our renewable programs, we don't think this green pricing program has much substance," McGlashen said.

Proos said that the 2008 act and its 10 percent renewable energy mandate "helped kick-start" renewable energy in the state. Now people are seeing the benefit and decreased cost.

In a special presentation on energy earlier this year, Gov. Rick Snyder said he wanted up to 40 percent of energy to come from energy efficiency or renewable sources. However, he did not specifically call for a renewable energy mandate.  

The House and Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have called for a doubling of the state's current renewable energy mandate to 20 percent.

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