Energy Opportunities in Michigan

alternative-alternative-energy-clean-356049Every so often, there is a change in government policy that creates opportunities for jobs and new investment in our communities. One of our roles in economic development is to help our local government leaders learn about these opportunities and educate themselves as much as possible to make informed decisions. We have one such opportunity in front of us today.

The state of Michigan established a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), requiring that the state’s 84 electric providers in Michigan secure 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. In 2016, the State of Michigan increased its renewable portfolio standards to 15% by 2021.

In addition, last month, Consumers Energy announced it had filed a plan with the MPSC that outlined a path to using zero coal, while ensuring affordable and reliable energy for Michigan families and businesses. Under the plan, the company would increase renewable energy from 11% today to 37% by 2030. The company has a goal of reducing its carbon emissions and eliminating the use of coal to generate electricity by 2040. The company proposes to add 550 MW of wind to help them reach Michigan’s goal of 15% by 2021. They also expect to add 5,000 MW of solar energy with ramp-up throughout the 2020’s.

DTE Energy is also planning to reduce its carbon footprint and incorporate substantially more renewable and cleaner sources of energy into its generation mix. In 2017, DTE announced a broad sustainability initiative to reduce the company’s carbon emissions by more than 80 percent while continuing to provide reliable and affordable power to its 2.2 million customers. DTE will achieve this reduction by incorporating substantially more renewable energy, eliminating coal, using low emission natural gas, continuing to operate its zero-emission Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, and improving options for customers to save energy and reduce bills. Recently, DTE filed plans to double its renewable energy capacity by 2022, adding another 1,000 MW of wind and solar and driving investment of more than $1.7 billion in Michigan’s energy sector.

What can we do to help our communities become prepared for renewable energy?

During the initial RPS period, a majority of wind-generated projects were developed in areas such as Michigan’s Thumb and Gratiot County among others. With the increase in the RPS and the recently released goals of our largest utilities, we anticipate that there may be an opportunity for additional wind and solar projects.

In our area, developers are already contacting landowners to secure sites for solar and wind projects. Local government officials are considering amendments to their master plans to address renewable energy production. They are also looking at developing zoning ordinances that align with the community’s plan for renewable energy production.

As economic developers, we may want to assist our local government officials by providing educational opportunities related to solar and wind energy. MSU Extension recently provided an excellent workshop called, “Shining a Light on Agricultural Solar Energy Development”, which provided great information for property owners considering solar development.

Webinars

Collaborating with MSU Extension and local government associations to develop a similar workshop on wind energy would be of great benefit to our local government officials trying to address these opportunities and challenges; some for the first time. Potential topics could include an overview of the industry and siting wind turbines and their operational characteristics. You may also want to invite an official from one of the Thumb or Gratiot Communities to share their experience with wind development. As the local economic developer, you may want to prepare an economic impact analysis to show the property tax increase provided by a wind energy project.

At the end of the day, it is a local government decision and our role is to ensure that these public officials are able to make well-informed decisions for the economic betterment of their communities.

Authored by: JoAnn Crary, CEcD, President, Saginaw Future, Inc. JoAnn is a long-time member of MEDA and our 2018 Committee Chair.

NOTE: For more information on the webinars mentioned, you can contact M. Charles Gould, Agricultural Bioenergy and Energy Conservation Educator, Michigan State University Extension, PH: 616-994-4547, gouldm@anr.msu.edu.

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Visit Michigan’s West Coast at the 2017 MEDA Annual Meeting

1497368704823-c0ng1pxsv8-d4339e1d3f562bfae411f84b92bf0e4fThis year’s annual MEDA conference will start with a bang and end just as strong.

Kicking off the event are Haworth’s CEO Franco Bianchi and Herman Miller’s CEO Brian Walker, both at the helm of separate world class office furniture manufacturing headquarters in the region.  They are speaking on finding better qualified employees, as well as an initiative they are co-leading to encourage employers to help local education systems understand employer needs in order to better prepare students for careers. Day two offers three excellent tours – a diverse range of unique developments on the lakeshore. These include:

Learn about the technology it takes to commercialize new specialty and bio-based chemicals, all while making them cost effective for the organizations manufacturing them. MSUBI has incorporated science, engineering, operational, and business expertise into their program to make them one of the top regional research and innovation resources, where commercialization is happening on the banks of Lake Macatawa in this facility that is also part of the Holland SmartZone.

West Michigan is known for our craft beer industry. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to tour one of our breweries and find learn about their impressive Brew on Site system which attributes to their industry’s success.

The Holland Energy Park is an international example of a municipal utility with a plan for the community’s future that includes baseline generation, beautifying the eastern gateway to downtown Holland and restoring wetlands. This brand new combined-cycled natural gas power plant is the only plant of its type to be built in the United States this year. Experience some of the latest energy production technology and how the Holland Board of Public Works is managing it. This tour has limited spots available; sign up soon.

The conference grand finale will include an exciting ignite session to provide ideas for you economic development strategy with key local, state and federal leaders. You will have the opportunity for one-on-one conversations to extend your network and gain valuable connections that will contribute to becoming a more effective economic development leader in your community.

To find out more details about the tours, read here. To register and find out more about the conference visit here.

Authored by MEDA’s 2017 Annual Meeting Committee Chair: Jennifer Owens, President, Lakeshore Advantage

Growing the Impact Economy: Social Innovation is Economic Development

Social innovations have become more prominent today because of ongoing research, sustainability practices, open source technology and design.  There is growing interest with the public policy makers and they are now supporting social innovations.  There is new thinking about innovation in public services and governments and the need of a deep social change.  Innovative ideas and solutions are being listened to and supported in a bid to create social change with innovation.  Social innovations are being used worldwide and social enterprises are sprouting.  People are beginning to realize the importance of social and responsible investment and innovative design to solve major problems.

In West Michigan, the most visible example of this social innovation is at Cascade Engineering.  Fred Keller, speaking at the TEDx Grand Rapids conference at the Civic Theatre in, told the crowd “business has the opportunity to change the world for the better.”  Cascade Engineering is a nationally recognized proponent of sustainable business practices that emphasize the key role business can play in building financial, social and environmental capital.  They have a very important economic and social impact on our regional economy.

There is a growing interest in social entrepreneurship and businesses are focusing more on innovation in their services.  There are new methods of innovation being inspired by the open source field and collaborative approaches are becoming more popular.

Social innovations are exploding all over the globe with new inventions and non-profit organizations being created for change. These social enterprises are the wave of the future, our future on this planet. New ventures are sprouting up and innovations are enhancing the capacity of the society to act.

You can be a part of this innovation and create sustainable changes that will impact the future of our planet in a positive way.  Change is imminent and the rise of social innovation is something we should all be a part of in the future.  Create opportunities that allow for-benefit economic development, remove the barriers faced by these enterprises, and create a supportive ecosystem for them in your region.

Authored by Kara Wood, Economic Development Director, City of Grand Rapids

Wood serves as a Secretary on the Michigan Economic Developers Association Board of Directors.