PWIR: Congratulations! Your Energy Bill Just Got Cheaper.

A weekly update on environmental policy happenings from Ryan Werder, Political Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Twitter: @rjwerder).

If your electricity comes from Consumer’s Energy, then your energy bills just got cheaper. A $2.50 monthly surcharge just went down 75% due to lower-than-expected costs for renewable energy. At that reduced cost, perhaps it’s about time that the state consider investing in even more clean energy.

In this week’s Political Week in Review:

It’s cheap, it’s clean… it’s only a beginning

How closely do you read your utility bill? The $2.50 surcharge on there for renewable energy surcharge is what the utilities tack on to your bill to cover the anticipated costs of a legislative mandate to generate 10% of their power through renewable sources by 2015. At this moment we’re not only on track to meet that commitment, but we’re doing it cheaper than anticipated. Hence Consumers cutting the surcharge to a mere $0.65 each month.

And that means you save money! Let’s take out the calculator for a moment: With the surcharge cut by $1.85 per month… multiply by twelve… carry the two… you save $22.20 each year. For many Michigan families that is a signifcant savings. These cuts are a reminder of how much more cost effective renewable energy is than coal which, at the moment, makes up roughly 60% of our overall power generation in the state.

It is time to begin exploring further investments in clean energy. Coal is costing Michigan well over $1 billion dollars each year to import. In fact, the Michigan Public Service Commission calculated coal to cost roughly 27% more than renewable energy. It is time that we cash in on Michigan’s potential for economic growth through renewable energy instead of continuing the outdated tradition of importing coal and exporting our limited cash.

I do have one more suggestion on how to spend your newfound $22.20, though; invest in an organization that is advocating for even more savings on your energy bills through even cleaner energy.

Common sense from uncommon allies

What does a think tank that denies climate change have in common with a fervent environmental group, a taxpayer watchdogorganization, conservationist Republicans, and Michigan LCV? The answer to this riddle is: A desire to trim the federal deficit in a manner that is environmentally responsible.

On Tuesday, the leadership from each of these organizations came together in Kalamazoo to send a clear message that would transcend both partisan and ideological boundaries. In short, they noted that not all the slices out of the budget must be painful; we can use Green Scissors to make genuinely beneficial cuts.

The Green Scissors Report they were touting is an annual study that identifies spending that is not only extra fat in the federal budget, but is actually detrimental to America’s air, land, and water. Given Michigan’s heavy representation on the new “supercommittee” in Congress – a committee tasked with cutting $1.5 trillion from the federal budget that includes Congressmen Upton and Camp – the authors of the report came to speak directly to these representatives’ constituents.

Given the truly diverse collection of organizations speaking up, we hope Congressmen Upton and Camp are listening. Voices like these don’t often speak in unison and, when they do, it is with good reason.

What Snyder can pull from Obama’s jobs speech

In the President’s message to a joint session of Congress, he spoke passionately about his vision for getting America’s economy back on track. In a way, getting us back on track is very literally where we need to be to get our country back up to speed.

Obama’s plan includes $50 billion in infrastructure investments with $2 billion of that total directed at high-speed rail.

Parts of the President’s speech can provide good starting points for Governor Snyder’s own infrastructure announcement anticipated for late October. Of course, we continue to advocate for Governor Snyder’s support of a strong investment in high speed rail in Michigan, a goal that already has received over $200 million in federal support. The resulting jobs from these rail upgrades will be good for the economy and the more efficient travel will encourage the use of low-emission mass transit that saves families’ gas money.

Additionally, the President lent his support to the bipartisan idea of a National Infrastructure Bank, a concept with the backing of both the US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. We believe a similar project here in Michigan can garner equally wide acceptance. Improvements in public transportation and high-speed rail will lead all of us toward a more modern Michigan with real savings in terms of both cost and pollution.

Until next week,

Ryan Werder
Political Director

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