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Conservative Energy Forum on state’s electricity: Not many sparks

Last month, the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum (MCEF) released its inaugural Electricity Rate Report Card, which showed that Michigan ratepayers face the highest electricity costs in the Midwest. In our ongoing effort to maintain accountability of Michigan’s electric utility companies, we are now releasing the second installment – our Reliability and Natural Resources Report Card.

Reliability

Electricity reliability is crucial for all energy users in Michigan and a key component of Gov. Snyder’s energy priorities. The best way to measure electricity reliability is the average number of minutes each electricity customer goes without power during an outage.

The Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy began collecting annual outage data from utilities and publishing this information in 2013. The most recent complete reliability data, from calendar year 2014, shows Michigan is simply missing the mark when it comes to reliability.

Michigan has the worst power outage time per customer in the Midwest and the fifth-worst in the nation. This means on average, Michigan electricity ratepayers lose power longer than customers in every other Midwest state.

Much of the debate over reliability has focused on resource adequacy, or the amount of power generation needed to meet customers’ peak demand. However, MCEF contends it is wrong to view reliability through the lens of resource adequacy given that in 2014 loss of electricity because of problems related to resource adequacy accounted for only about 1 percent of outage minutes in Michigan. Thus an overwhelming majority of regular power outages are not caused by insufficient electricity generation, but rather by breakdowns in the electricity delivery system.

When it comes to reliability, it is clear that Michigan utility companies are falling short. And, considering the rates we pay, our utility companies owe it to ratepayers to improve infrastructure to keep the lights on.

Conservation of natural resources

We must protect our natural resources, producing and using energy in ways that have the minimum negative impact on our air, land, and water quality. Electric utilities are required to report emissions of the most dangerous pollutants from each power plant. As with reliability information, the most recent emissions data available from the EIA is for calendar year 2014.

The best way to measure emissions is the amount of pollution compared to the amount of power generated. For our analysis we used tons of pollution per million kWh of electricity generated.

In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, a key contributor to pollution that causes negative health effects, Michigan ranked ninth-worst in the Midwest and 19th-worst in the nation. For sulfur dioxide emissions, another key pollutant that has been linked to higher rates of asthma, cardiopulmonary diseases, and acid rain, Michigan ranked fourth-worst in the Midwest and fifth-worst in the nation.

Pollution threatens our Great Lakes, rivers and streams, in turn threatening Michigan’s proud traditions of fishing, hunting, boating and enjoying the outdoors. Many states are reducing pollution by incorporating more clean energy sources into their energy portfolios.

In 2015, Michigan ranked 5th lowest in the Midwest in terms of the percentage of power generation from renewable sources, and 20th lowest in the nation.

Investing in clean, renewable energy can position Michigan as an energy leader, conserving our finite natural resources and improving reliability. Take Michigan’s 2008 renewable energy standard (RES) for example, which helped to create jobs, drive investment in our state, and protect our natural resources.

Building on this success, part of the energy legislation now being considered by the House – a five percent increase to our RES by 2021 – was sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Monroe, and has already been approved with bipartisan support by the GOP-led state Senate.

The state House can help Michigan meet Gov. Snyder’s goals of conservation and reliable, affordable energy by voting to increase our renewable energy standard. As the country moves toward a 21st century clean energy economy, MCEF urges our lawmakers to place ratepayers above guaranteed utility profits, and keep reliability and conservation in mind as they consider the current energy bills before them.

MCEF will continue to provide these performance rate cards, and we are committed to helping Michigan be a leader in our nation’s clean energy transition.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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