By Mark Fisk/Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs
Proposal 3 sparked a significant debate in Michigan about what alternative energy sources we could be using to create jobs, reduce our dependence on imported coal and foreign oil and improve public health by decreasing dangerous pollution in our air and water.
The Proposal 3 campaign raised important issues we must face: It showed Michigan is falling behind more than 30 other states when it comes to embracing stronger renewable energy standards that create jobs and investment in local communities.
Many Michigan residents support more renewable energy and a more diversified energy economy that includes wind, solar, biomass and hydropower.
And natural gas complements renewable energy – it’s not an adversary, as Kevon Martis’ recent column purports.
The simple fact is Michigan relies on coal for nearly 60 percent of our electricity needs and we don’t produce any of it here. The cost of importing coal has increased 71 percent since 2006; in 2011, Michigan residents spent $1.7 billion to haul coal into our state boundaries.
That data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is striking when compared to how the cost of renewable energy continues to decline and is cheaper than new coal generation. The Michigan Public Service Commission detailed how the price of renewable energy is expected to continue that steady descent in a February 2012 report.
The MPSC already has said big utilities are on track to meet Michigan’s current renewable energy standard of 10 percent by 2015. Wind-generated electricity is now on par with the cost of electricity from natural gas.
Despite the outcome of Proposal 3, Michigan citizens continue to support more renewable energy, as polls repeatedly show. We need to continue discussing what alternative energy sources can do for our state and not simply rely on what the big utilities think is best for us.
DTE and Consumers Energy have a monopoly on the energy market in our state and when they make decisions to build new facilities, like Consumers recently did in announcing plans for a $750 million natural gas plant in Genesee County, it’s ratepayers who ultimately foot the bill.
We’re the ones who pay for investments that go well – and those that don’t – which is why Michigan residents deserve a bigger say in these decisions so that all options can be weighed equally.
In his special message on energy and the environment in November, Gov. Rick Snyder acknowledged the need to increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard and called for an open dialogue on the issue in the coming year.
Our coalition wants to move forward and expects that dialogue – and the action to follow – to be robust and meaningful for our state.
The time of declaring one source of energy better than another, and betting the farm on it, is a thing of the past. We did that with coal and oil and it didn’t work.
We must embrace a diversified energy portfolio that includes more renewable energy that can complement safely-extracted natural gas, all the while moving away from coal that hits our pocketbooks and harms our health.