Is it bad to turn on a light?

As Bridge's Rick Haglund reports in today's magazine, the high hopes of many political leaders for the impact of "green" energy have yet to materialize. I wouldn't say those hopes are dashed entirely, but the big talk has exceeded the actual results to date.

A new report from the federal Energy Information Administration gives some context to where Michigan is heading by showing where we've been (see below). A couple of items that stand out to my eye from the chart:

* Stability. While you see some ups and downs -- mainly due to the state's economic activity, I'm sure -- Michigan's energy profile is consistently consistent.

* Go nukes. Nuclear power remains Michigan's No. 2 power source -- and by a wide margin.

So, and stop me if I have this wrong: Coal is bad, in the "green" context. Nuclear is bad, in the "green" context. And natural gas is trending to bad, too, if you listen to the critics of hydraulic fracturing.

What does that leave? In 2010, renewables were about 3 percent of total generation. And most of that power came from hydroelectric -- those are dams, and, oops, dams are bad for certain fish species.

The Public Service Commission expects Michigan to add more than 1,000 megawatt-hours of renewable power in 2012, most of it from wind. Well, to replace all of our "bad" energy sources, Michigan would have to keep adding 1,000 MWH of renewable power every year for the next 108 years -- assuming we don't need any more electrical generation than we are consuming right now. Could you pass me that candle?

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Tue, 04/10/2012 - 9:11am
...."most of it is from wind" .... because wind IS economic. At least for 10% to 25% of Michigan's total power source. With the Ludington "grid battery" - now being doubled in size -Michigan is easily ready to absorb in the neighborhood of 25% of total source from wind. Consumer's CEO recognized this in his speech at the dedication of the company's new wind farm in the thumb. He said they (Consumers) had studied it every which way you can and that wind Mws were as cheap as coal. So at least until the limit on intermittent sources is reached - the 25% range -wind should continue to grow in Michigan. All it will take is a little leadership from Lansing.
Tue, 04/10/2012 - 1:44pm
The nuclear reactor event in Japan last year should give every citizen a reason to re-consider reliance on nuclear power's overall value to the energy production picture. Whole sections of Japan's countryside is unusable for living and working.Radiation illnesses are still being counted. Wind and solar energy offer a safer alternative to coal and nuclear production. There is a factor of storage of alternatively generated energy: we produce energy now, but how do we keep it for later. Enter the two lake battery system. During peak hours of production, water is pumped from a lower lake to an upper lake with the excessive electricity.Then at night or when we have a slow-down in wind, water from the upper lake passed through hydroelecric systems to recapture the energy as electricity. All of these ideas pivot on the will of people to consider new ways of energy production and storage.
Tue, 04/10/2012 - 6:17pm
unless you are a bird. Interestingly when Oil companies spill oil we're treated to unending pictures of suffering and dead wildlife with wind mills even thought they kill thousands per year according to Cornell and Audubon we hear nothing.
Hugh McDiarmid Jr.
Tue, 05/15/2012 - 11:55am
I'm flummoxed by the suggestion that the hopes of renewable energy advocates have not materialized. --- Our utilities are comfortably on track to meet the 10 percent renewable mandate by 2015. Officials from DTE and Consumers Energy have testified to the low cost and job-creating impact of their renewable energy in legislative sessions several times since the 2008 law was passed. --- The MPSC reports that electricity from renewables is significantly less expensive than electricity from a new coal or nuclear plant would be; and prices are continuing to drop. --- Renewables are reducing health care costs and damages due to coal, costs estimated at $1.5 billion annually from just the state's oldest 9 plants, according an MEC report last year. --- There are now 241 Michigan companies employing workers as part of the wind and solar supply chains. --- Each MWh of renewable generation that displaces coal reduces a bit of the $1.8 billion we send away annually to buy coal, and keeps that money in Michigan's economy. --- Did I mention renewable costs are dropping fast? Consumers Energy has reduced its cost to residential customers for renewables from $2.50/mo to 52 cents since 2008. Where else -- anywhere -- in Michigan's economy have you seen costs to consumers drop almost 80 percent in four years? Renewable energy in Michigan isn't a panacea for all that ails our energy system. But it is cleaner, healtheir and significantly cheaper than even supporters dreamed it might be only a few short years ago. And it has completely shattered the myth -- peddled by opponents of the 2008 law -- that the renewables would cause economic and grid disruptions and be exorbitantly expensive.