Gov. Rick Snyder outlines broad vision for Michigan’s energy policy
LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder set a broad vision for Michigan’s energy policy that involves a more flexible range of renewable energy goals to be achieved by 2025.
The Republican governor on Thursday held a roundtable discussion in Detroit to outline his thoughts following a one-year study of Michigan’s energy landscape and policy.
Snyder said he hopes to have legislation in place in 2015, which is when the state’s current renewable energy and energy efficiency programs end. He said it’d be difficult to pass a comprehensive energy policy in 2014 since it’s an election year.
He said he wants to reduce the state’s reliance on coal, increase the use of renewable energy and natural gas, and boost energy affordability and reliability while protecting the environment. He didn’t offer specific numbers aside from saying he wants Michigan to be less than the national average for consumer energy bills, in the top quartile nationwide in terms of the fewest number of power outages, and the top half for duration of outages.
“We want affordable and reliable energy with no regrets with respect to how we build this policy. And when you look at that, we have to have adaptability in terms of the ability to recognize there are conditions outside our control that can influence what’s the best answer for our citizens in our state,” he said, noting the lack of a comprehensive federal energy policy and volatility in coal, natural gas and other fuels.
Utilities are on track to meet standards set in a 2008 state law that requires them to derive 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015 and also meet energy savings goals.
Snyder in November 2012 delivered a special message on energy and the environment. He called for a one-year study after voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have amended the constitution to require Michigan utilities to derive at least 25 percent of their annual electric retail sales from clean renewable sources by 2025.
The Michigan Energy Office and Michigan Public Service Commission held seven public forums and submitted four reports to the governor. One of the reports found that it’s theoretically feasible for Michigan to achieve renewable energy standards as high as 30 percent by 2035.
Snyder said that he wouldn’t push for 30 percent by 2025, but prefers to set “a reasonable range.”
“I’m not picking numbers today,” he said.
On-shore wind energy would likely continue to be the main supplier of renewable energy, while fracking could help Michigan tap into its natural gas resources. Environmental activists have fought against fracking, a controversial method of accessing underground natural gas, but Snyder said Michigan “is a role model for fracking done right.”
Snyder called for more competitive energy rates for industrial customers, but expressed caution about eliminating the 10 percent cap on alternative energy suppliers. A regulated market, he said, offers utilities stability.
“Choice creates a lot of challenges and problems, so I wouldn’t jump to say increasing choice is the answer,” he said.
State Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, introduced legislation to remove the 10 percent cap in an effort to increase competition. He said the status quo is completely unacceptable.
“Nobody can defend our current system,” he said, adding that his bill is meant to initiate debate on the issue.
Several environmental and pro-renewable energy groups praised Snyder’s message. The governor said he wants to deal with mercury emissions, acid rain and air pollution to better protect the state’s natural resources.
“I commend Gov. Snyder for making the transition from coal to clean one of his priorities. It will reduce illness, help rein in health care costs and ultimately save lives,” Rory Neuner of MI Air MI Health said in a statement.
Michigan Environmental Council President Chris Kolb said Snyder laid out a strong vision, recognizing the importance of both energy efficiency and renewable energy.
“We believe that concrete targets are key to keeping the momentum going, and we look forward to working with all parties to make that happen,” he said in a statement.
But members of Clean Energy Now, a coalition associated with liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan, criticized Snyder for not proposing specific policy changes.
“We expected Governor Snyder to outline concrete goals for how he will move Michigan’s energy policy forward,” Clay Carpenter, coalition member and campaign organizer for Clean Water Action, said in a statement. “Months of public participation, research and analysis has prepared the governor to make informed energy choices for Michigan, yet his announcement today fell short of providing specifics on what he plans to accomplish.”