Wind Energy Blows Michigan Toward 30% Renewables by 2035

by Silvio Marcacci

A new state analysis finds wind energy is blowing Michigan toward its 10% by 2015 renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and could help reach it 30% renewables by 2035 without reliability or affordability concerns.

The report; Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions: Renewable Energy was released by the governor’s office this week as the state starts to contemplate what its energy future should look like beyond 2015.

Michigan Renewable Portfolio Standard chart via State of Michigan
Michigan Renewable Portfolio Standard chart via State of Michigan

While a ballot initiative to increase Michigan’s RPS to 25% by 2025 was rejected in 2012, this new analysis undercuts many of the arguments used in that election by showing renewable energy costs falling fast while being integrated into the grid.

Wind Energy Gusts Ahead

Michigan’s current RPS was established in 2008 and requires utilities in the state to achieve 10% of electricity sales via renewables through a combination of new generation, renewable energy credits, and energy efficiency measures.

Put simply, the results have been remarkable. The RPS goals are expected to be met by every utility (except for Detroit’s municipal utility, which is winding down service) and has led to 1,400 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy generation either in operation or under development.

A staggering 94% of this new capacity has been wind energy, with approximately half those turbines owned by independent power producers selling electricity through stable power-purchase agreements, and the state is about to join the elite “gigawatt club” by generating more than a billion watts of electricity from wind power.

Michigan Wind, Affordable And Reliable

But all this green growth has come with an affordable price tag. By the end of 2013, Michigan power consumers will have paid $675 million in renewable energy surcharges, but that rate is falling fast. Surcharge collections are expected to be significantly reduced or even eliminated starting in 2014 because project costs have fallen to the point of being equivalent to fossil fuel generation.

Since the RPS has gone into operation, wind energy has been the lowest-cost source of renewable electricity, falling from over $100/megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2009 to between $50-60/MWh in 2013.

This drop has mainly come from a doubling of wind farm capacity factors due to improved design, from around 20% in 2008 to around 40% today, at the top of national capacity factor averages.

In addition to falling capacity factors, Michigan’s location within two regional grid markets, MISO and PJM Interconnection, has cut costs. The report notes wind integration costs within these large grid areas are lower than costs for projects outside of them, and MISO reports new forecasting technologies help ensure the influx of wind hasn’t caused any reliability problems – in other words, the lights stay on even when the wind doesn’t blow.

Don’t Forget That Green Economic Boost

Adding all this wind energy has also created an economic boom few government officials could have predicted, but one that has helped the state weather the economic downturn. Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, the state’s two largest utilities, report their renewable energy investments have created 2,500 new jobs.

Wind turbine construction image via Shutterstock
Wind turbine construction image via Shutterstock

Indeed, an entire green industry is growing up around Michigan’s RPS. More than 200 companies now operate in the state’s renewable energy supply chain, ranging from manufacturers, suppliers, and service providers, and communities hosting renewable projects have increased revenues from taxes and royalty payments. In fact, wind tourism is even a growing industry!

Turns out creating economic growth can be clean and affordable.

The RPS “has attracted significant investment to the state and driven job growth,” said Steve Frenkel of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Meanwhile, renewable energy costs are far lower than originally anticipated and these technologies are performing better than expected.”

Looking Beyond 30% Renewables

Post-2015 RPS negotiations will happen in the state legislature, not at the ballot box where renewable advocates can be outspent by pro-fossil fuel interests, meaning this report’s non-partisan and unbiased analysis could be the starting point for discussion, not slick commercials.

Indeed, Michigan’s next set of targets could aim much higher than just 10% without looking beyond its borders. The report estimates the state has 61 gigawatts of potential renewable energy resources. “From a theoretical technical perspective, it would be possible to meet increased RPS targets of as much as 30% (or perhaps higher) from resources located within the state,” reads the report.

Sounds like a winning argument. After all, what politician wouldn’t want to vote for cleaner air, greener jobs, and more tax revenue?

This article, Wind Energy Blows Michigan Toward 30% Renewables By 2035, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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LCV EPA regulations poll

74% Of Voters Back EPA Power Plant Emissions Regulation

74% Of Voters Back EPA Power Plant Emissions Regulation

by Silvio Marcacci

LCV EPA regulations poll results
EPA regulations poll results chart via LCV/Huffington Post

Fighting emissions regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency must be a winning national electoral issue, right? Otherwise why would so many politicians fight so hard to allow power plants to keep spewing pollution into the air?

Um, not so much. An overwhelming majority of voters in swing states across the country support EPA action to limit the amount of carbon power plants can emit, according to a new survey from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

By wide margins, voters in 11 states considered in play for 2014 Senate elections not only support emissions regulation, but trust EPA to administer the policy and say they’re less likely to vote for candidates who either oppose EPA’s proposal or deny climate change.

Wide Support For EPA Across State & Party Lines

74% of voters support EPA’s proposals to limit power plant emissions. That support cuts across states Barack Obama (73%) and Mitt Romney (73%) as well as party identification for Democrats (92%), independents (72%), and Republicans (58%). “The anti-environmental message is a losing argument with the American people,” blogged Gene Karpinski, LCV President.

The LCV poll derived these findings from telephone interviews on October 9-13 with 1,113 likely voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia.

It’s also probably not surprising to learn the public wants EPA to regulate emissions, not Congress. At the height of the government shutdown, voters preferred EPA regulation to Congressional action by a 5-to-1 margin, 66% to 12%

Anti-EPA Stance & Climate Denial Cost Votes

In fact, EPA opposition may actually turn out to be a harmful policy position for 2014 candidates. Nearly half (48%) of all voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed emissions regulation, while only 17% said they’d be more likely to vote for that candidate. By comparison, 44% of voters said they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported power plant emissions regulations by EPA.

When presented with both sides of the argument (war on coal, higher electricity prices, and job killer were used against regulation while climate change, public health, and protecting the planet were used for regulation), 64% of voters said they wanted their senator to support EPA’s proposal.

Those same trends translate to voter perceptions about the threat of climate change. 65% of voters say climate change is a serious problem nationwide, and surprisingly say so at a higher rate in Romney states (67%) compared to Obama states (64%).

And if candidates deny climate change, they may be shooting their campaigns in the foot. 63% of voters said hearing their Senate candidate deny climate change would make them view the candidate less favorably than one recognizing basic science.

Pro-Climate Trends Taking Shape One Year Out

Election Day 2014 could be a major turning point for clean energy and climate policy – if Republicans keep the House of Representatives and take control of the Senate, action would grind to a halt for the rest of Obama’s term. However, if Democrats cut into the GOP’s House majority and hold the Senate, Obama could cement his progressive legacy by pushing through renewables support and emissions reduction goals.

LCV’s latest survey tracks with a bipartisan poll from July 2013 that found young voters “intensely supportive” of action to fight climate change, and willing to punish those who ignore the problem. Now that those trends are showing up across the wider US population, on broader policy fronts, it might just be time to scrap that climate-denier, anti-EPA playbook.

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This article, 74% Of Voters Back EPA Power Plant Emissions Regulation, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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Shaheen-Portman Bill: 172,000 Green Jobs, Huge Energy Efficiency Gains

by Silvio Marcacci– Special to JBS News

An energy efficiency bill moving through Congress has been hailed as the best chance for bipartisan passage of major energy legislation in years, but new analysis shows it could do much more through a massive economic and environmental boost for America.

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013, also known as the Shaheen-Portman bill, could create hundreds of thousands of green jobs while saving consumers billions and cutting energy use and emissions, reports the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Shaheen-Portman, named for sponsoring Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), has been introduced and stalled before. But this time passage looks promising, on the strength of bipartisan, business, and environmental support – meaning a major step forward on the transition to a clean energy economy.

New jobs from Shaheen-Portman bill

New jobs from Shaheen-Portman bill graph via ACEEE

Best Bipartisan Chance For Energy Reform?

First a little background. S761 was introduced this April and passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a 19-3 vote. In a Congress defined by bipartisan gridlock, securing 12 Democratic votes with 7 Republican ones is a notable achievement. After passing through committee, Shaheen-Portman seemed to fall by the wayside as Congress took up other issues, but could move to consideration by the full Senate as early as next week.

The bill is a more moderate version of similar legislation from the pair of Senators in 2011 and promotes energy efficiency across the US economy through a mix of building codes, financing and rebates, voluntary labeling, and technical assistance. If enacted, the bill would target improvements in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, which represented two-thirds of 2011 US energy-use emissions.

Shaheen-Portman A Clean-Energy Kickstarter

ACEEE’s analysis found that even 2013’s moderate version would have an incredible and wide-ranging positive impact on the way America uses and pays for electricity. The study examined three potential outcomes: the core bill, the core bill with selected amendments that have bipartisan support (Group A), and Group A as well as additional amendments likely to be stripped away due to partisan objections (Group A+).

Impact of Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill

Impact of Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill chart via ACEEE

If Group A becomes law, an increasingly likely outcome, America’s about to get a massive clean energy kick-start. By 2020 net annual consumer savings will be $2.3 billion, climbing to $14.7 billion by 2030. Cumulative investment will be around $10.9 billion in 2020 and $67.2 billion by 2030 — almost all of it coming from the private sector.

Green Jobs, Energy Savings, Emissions Reductions

And of course any time huge amounts of private dollars are being spent jobs are quick to follow. Group A passage would support 70,000 new green jobs in 2020, 143,000 jobs in 2025, and 172,000 jobs in 2030. While many of these positions will be directly related to construction and manufacturing, a significant number will be created as wages and consumer savings spill over into the wider economy.

But that’s not all. As energy efficiency improvements take hold, American energy use and emissions will plummet. ACEEE estimates that by 2030, Group A will cumulatively reduce US energy consumption by 10.7 quadrillion British Thermal Units (Btu). For context, that’s the combined annual energy consumption of California and Michigan combined. These energy savings will also cut peak electricity demand 30,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030 – equivalent to the maximum output of roughly 54 power plants.

Energy savings of Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill

Energy savings of Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill graph via ACEEE

And along with reduced energy use comes reduced emissions. Under the Group A outlook, annual US emissions will drop by 18.1 million metric tons (MMT) in 2020 and plummet by 85.1MMT in 2030.

As the World Resources Institute pointed out, Shaheen-Portman alone won’t get America to its 17% emissions reduction by 2020 goal, but it’ll play a major role in augmenting efforts to clean our energy mix.

Energy Efficiency FTW

Add it all up, and Shaheen-Portman is a winning idea for every aspect of America’s energy and environmental debate. Influential business interests representing more than $7.3 trillion in annual revenue and 16 million employees, as well as some of America’s biggest environmental groups are behind the bill — try to think about the last time clean energy received that kind of support.

“Energy efficiency is an excellent, bipartisan and affordable way to immediately grow our economy and create the kind of jobs the 21st century economy demands,” said Senator Shaheen. “The bipartisan energy efficiency plan Senator Portman and I have introduced will help address our country’s energy needs in a way that boosts our economy and also saves taxpayers dollars.”

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

This article, Shaheen-Portman Bill: 172,000 Green Jobs, Huge Energy Efficiency Gains, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

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