Opponents say energy bills would benefit utility companies



LANSING – A pair of Senate bills would shift the state’s focus away from renewable energy to the benefit of large utility companies – and Michigan’s budding renewable market could be left out in the cold, according to opponents like the Sierra Club.

“Essentially, these bills would destroy our current system of supporting renewables, efficiency and all the things that make our energy portfolio cleaner and more sustainable,” said Mike Berkowitz, the staff political director of the Michigan Sierra Club’s Political Committee. “The bills would eliminate Michigan’s renewable energy standard, sunset our energy efficiency standard and gut our net metering program, which would essentially destroy the solar industry in Michigan.”

But the chair of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, Sen. Mike Nofs, R–Battle Creek, said the plan would instead make Michigan’s energy market more competitive and fair, without the state giving certain types of generation preferential treatment. He and the committee’s vice chair, Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, sponsored the bills.

“We don’t want to pick what fuels are going to work, which fuels are most cost-effective and all that,” Nofs said. “When you have mandates, you’re tied to that energy source no matter what it costs, and as we’ve seen with wind, and with solar, they’ve had some downfalls. But we did what the 2008 legislation wanted to do – get that economy of renewables going.”

The plan would alter a 2008 law that introduced a mandate requiring utilities to generate at least 10 percent of their electric load from renewable sources by the end of this year, and remain at a minimum 10 percent in years that follow. It includes another mandate for efficiency.

Introduced in July, the bill is undergoing hearings in the committee.

Meanwhile, the House Energy Policy Committee has approved different legislation that would provide incentives for utilities that hit annual waste reduction benchmarks and introduce a goal of 30 percent renewable energy production by 2025. That measure now goes to the full House for a vote.

The Senate proposal would eliminate renewable and efficiency mandates. Incentives to utilities exceeding renewable and emission requirements would also be significantly reduced.

Nofs said, “Now, let everybody compete.”



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