Michigan Releases Energy Reports; Public Comment Encouraged

The State of Michigan is currently releasing drafts of four studies pertaining to its upcoming decisions on the future of State energy production. The first draft of a report on Renewable Energy was published on September 20, while a draft on Additional Areas of energy came out on October 1. Reports on Electric Choice and Energy Efficiency are due out, respectively, on October 15 and October 22.

“The [Renewable Energy] report presents sound technical and policy analysis that it is both economically and practically feasible to increase the amount of renewable energy we use to generate electricity in Michigan up to 30 percent or more,” said environmental scientist James Tolbert.

The executive summary for the Renewable Energy report breaks down the 425 responses to 40 renewable energy questions on the website for Ensuring Michigan’s Energy Future. Of the responses received, 45 percent had to do with the design of the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires energy providers to meet goals to use more renewable energies. Michigan is widely expected to meet its initial goal of 10 percent renewable energy by 2015, and the State’s RPS has produced around 1,400 megawatts of renewable energy, 94 percent of which comes from wind power and half of which is not owned by utilities.

The summary further explains that while Lansing’s RPS has not been as aggressive in its implementation of renewable energy – its 10 percent target rate is lower than all but one of the 29 states, plus two territories and the District of Columbia, with RPSs – the potential exists to target 30 percent renewable fuels from State resources. In addition, megawatt hours of onshore wind and hydro power are now cheaper on average than both advanced nuclear and coal power, although natural gas through a conventional combined cycle plant is still the cheapest option of them all, as the report references from the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2013 (a complete table of costs can be found here). The draft also addresses, amongst other things, variances in cost estimates for wind power, the security in keeping a diverse generation supply portfolio (think mutual funds), and the general reliability of wind power, concluding with a reiteration that reaching renewable benchmarks of 15 percent in 2020 and 30 percent in 2035 are achievable.

The Additional Areas report’s executive summary addresses energy questions that do not have direct relation to any topic discussed by the other three reports. Of the 49 responses to 15 questions, 94 percent pertained to one of three categories: reliability (37 percent), electricity rates (29 percent), and natural gas (28 percent). All three categories are addressed in the summary.

Lansing is encouraging all Michiganders to take a look at the reports and is inviting public comment for a limited time period. Public comments will be accepted on the Renewable Energy report until October 16, and the Additional Areas report will take in new opinions until October 22. When the Electric Choice and Energy Efficiency drafts are released, public comments will be accepted until, respectively, November 1 and 6.

“This report is another step in the political process of attempting to adjust our renewable portfolio standard,” said Tolbert. “Comments supporting a higher proportion of renewable sources for Michigan’s electricity will help that process.”

Indeed, public comments on certain issues are not going unnoticed by Lansing. The natural gas section of the Additional Areas report directly references public interest in the fracking issue:

Many oral and written comments and concerns regarding the safety and environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing were received in this process. The Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan has released technical reports for comment regarding hydraulic fracturing in Michigan.

In addition to leaving comments on the reports’ State website, Tolbert also recommends writing state legislators in support of a higher renewable portfolio standard.

“It will be beneficial for legislators to know that you and the people of the State of Michigan stand behind [this] option,” said Tolbert. “If you can be concrete, or specific about what you support in the report, that can also counter any submittals that are negative or attempt to negate any section of the report.”

To leave a public comment on the Renewable Energy report, visit this page, where you’ll find other public comments, before October 16. Public comments for the Additional Areas report can be made here, and the pages for Electric Choice and Energy Efficiency open when those drafts are released on October 15 and 22, with links posted here. You can look up your state representative on this page and your state senator on this page.

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