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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

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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