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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public policy (noun): government policies that affect the whole population

Public policy is not something everyone thinks about but is very important in how our society is managed. The Center for Civic Education defines specific attributes of public policy that help to expand on the above basic definition:

  • Policy is made in response to some sort of issue or problem that requires attention. Policy is what the government chooses to do (actual) or not do (implied) about a particular issue or problem.
  • Policy might take the form of law, or regulation, or the set of all the laws and regulations that govern a particular issue or problem.
  • Policy is made on behalf of the “public.”
  • Policy is oriented toward a goal or desired state, such as the solution of a problem.
  • Policy is ultimately made by governments, even if the ideas come from outside government or through the interaction of government and the public.
  • Policymaking is part of an ongoing process that does not always have a clear beginning or end, since decisions about who will benefit from policies and who will bear any burden resulting from the policy are continually reassessed, revisited and revised.

You can clearly see that a key ingredient for good public policy is the “public” part. That is you and me. When we vote, we are making a choice of individuals we trust to work through the policy process, often referred to as sausage making, with our best interests in mind.

But there are additional ways we can participate. When there is a problem or issue that needs to be addressed, do you reach out to policy makers and let them know how you feel? What you believe is the right thing to do? Do you send a letter/note, make a call or attend a town hall meeting to share your support or opposition?

These are a variety of ways that you can communicate effectively with those in positions to shape public policy, and they want to hear from you. This is why the Marquette County Ambassadors have focused, for decades, on building strong relationships with our elected officials and engaging in policy creation and debate of issues affecting our community.

The Marquette County Ambassadors are a privately funded group of business, education, community and government leaders from across Marquette County whose mission it is to “promote and foster economic vitality throughout Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, to carry the story of the Marquette County area to others, and salute those who deserve recognition.”

For decades the Marquette County Ambassadors have made trips to Lansing to meet with legislators and state department personnel. The purpose of the trip is threefold: to inform our legislators of relevant issues affecting Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, to hear their perspectives on activities related to state government, and to share with them our position on critical issues related to the Upper Peninsula. This year we were proud to have partners from Baraga and Dickinson counties join us.

The Ambassadors researched and produced position papers in four major areas:

  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Local Government
  • Infrastructure

Many, if not all, of the issues raised or initiatives supported are not specific to Marquette County, but rather the Upper Peninsula as a whole. Regional cooperation continues to play a vital role in the betterment of the Upper Peninsula and U.P. communities have a long history of working together. Our legislators appreciate the regional collaboration and single voice on issues they are pursuing.

So at the end of the day, if we want public policy to truly address the needs and concerns of the public, then we “the public” need to engage. For issues and legislation we are watching, hop on to our website at www.marquette.org.

Authored By: Amy Clickner, CEcD, CFRM, Chief Executive Officer, Lake Superior Community Partnership. Amy is a Member at Large on MEDA’s Board of Directors.