Michigan announces it will design own clean energy plan

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Kevin Bunch | C&G Newspapers | Published September 9, 2015

 Consumers Energy is planning to retire seven of its coal plants, moving to cleaner energy sources and improving its energy efficiency programs.

Consumers Energy is planning to retire seven of its coal plants, moving to cleaner energy sources and improving its energy efficiency programs.

METRO DETROIT — Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration announced Sept. 1 that the state would develop its own carbon implementation plan to meet the power plant carbon emissions guidelines set for it in President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.


The Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce power plant greenhouse gas emissions by a third of 2012 levels by 2030, allows states to develop their own plans to reach their respective targets.


“I think it’s very positive to allow states the time and flexibility to come up with their own plans,” said state Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores.


If a state does not come up with an initial plan by Sept. 6, 2016, it would be subject to a federal implementation plan from the Environmental Protection Agency that had not been disclosed as of press time. The Michigan Agency for Energy is expected to have a rough plan submitted to the EPA by the deadline and will be coordinating its development.


“The best way to protect Michigan is to develop a state plan that reflects Michigan’s priorities of adaptability, affordability, reliability and protection of the environment,” Snyder said in a statement. “We need to seize the opportunity to make Michigan’s energy decisions in Lansing, not leave them in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”


Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant said in a statement that the state review of the Clean Power Plan is ongoing, but thus far the state has been able to determine that with the participation of stakeholders, the state can come up with a reasonable compliance pathway. That stakeholder process is expected to begin by the end of the year.


Local Michigan utility companies have come out in favor of the state’s decision. Consumers Energy issued a statement saying that Michigan should “take control of its energy future,” as letting Washington make decisions could threaten Michigan’s electric rate competitiveness and risk the reliability of electric service for its customers.


Consumers Energy is planning to retire seven of its coal plants — about a third of its coal fleet — by April 2016. The utility intends to move to cleaner energy sources and improve its energy efficiency programs.


DTE Energy’s statement said that it and other utilities in the state are going to retire 60 percent of the state’s aging coal-fired fleet of power plants, and DTE plans on replacing its own with a mix of renewable energies, natural gas-fired plants — which still emit greenhouse gases, albeit not in the same amounts as coal — and increased energy efficiency.


While the company said that it would be a challenge for the state and DTE itself, the changing markets, aging plants and environmental expectations all make this the time to start.


Skiles Boyd, vice president of DTE Energy’s environmental management and resources division, told C & G Newspapers in August that those power plant closures and the move toward natural gas and renewable energy would have happened even without the Clean Power Plan.


State Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, said that while the Legislature will be following the development of the plan, he does not actually anticipate any direct involvement.


“I’m fully supportive of it, and hopefully it’ll either meet the rules or exceed it,” Chirkun said. “I think they’ll implement the plan administratively, so it really won’t come before us.”


While Roberts agreed that the Legislature would not be designing Michigan’s plan, when asked what she would like to see in a plan, Roberts said she would look forward to a reduction of the state’s reliance on coal.


“Fifty percent of Michigan’s energy currently comes from coal, and we have the opportunity to create up to 25 percent of our energy from wind,” she said. “It’s about how we diversify creating energy and meeting the energy needs in our state.”


She said she would like to see more clean energy jobs created in Michigan. With a $3 billion private sector investment in renewable energy over the past seven years, she said, “We’re on a really great trajectory to do even more.”


While Michigan passed a law in 2008 mandating that 10 percent of its energy come from renewable energy sources by 2015, “We’ve reached that,” Roberts said, explaining that she would like to see that increased to 20 percent by 2022.


“I think it’s very doable, (and) making that kind of commitment helps attract those private sector clean energy jobs to the state.”


Other groups in Michigan have come out in favor of a Michigan-designed plan, including the League of Conservation Voters and the Michigan Agri-Business Association.


Under the Clean Power Plan, the EPA suggests that states move to more renewable sources, like wind and solar energy, and utilize natural gas plants while improving the efficiency of their remaining coal-burning plants. States can “trade” emissions across state lines to meet the overall national goal.


In his initial announcement about the plan, Obama said that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been in 800,000 years, and said that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have been in the first 15 years of this century. Obama wants the Clean Power Plan to build off of emission reductions from automobile fuel efficiency and the rise of renewable energy and natural gas.


The plan allows states to target reductions in greenhouse gas emission rates or in overall emissions per year. The EPA has set Michigan’s 2030 goal as being either an emission rate of 1,169 pounds per megawatt hour, or an annual emission mass of 47,544,064 short tons. As of 2012, the EPA reported that Michigan had carbon dioxide rate emissions of 1,928 pounds per megawatt hour, or roughly 69,860,454 short tons a year.


Michigan has already taken steps to reduce its emissions under the 2008 law, something that MAE Executive Director Valerie Brader said the plan acknowledged. She said in a statement that the EPA was not giving the state credits based on some of its rate-based emission reductions, however, and complained that the agency was rewarding “delay over early action.”