LANSING – With support from officials with Whirlpool and Ford Motor Company, as well as some community leaders and small business owners, Governor Rick Snyder reiterated Wednesday his plans for a new energy policy and that reducing energy waste will become a bigger priority than setting a renewable energy mandate or changing the electric choice cap.

In mid-March, Snyder issued a special message on energy and unveiled his thoughts on what the future of that in Michigan should look like, including keeping the 10 percent cap on electric choice, trying to get between 30 percent and 40 percent of energy from a combination of renewable sources and energy efficiency, and reducing energy waste by at least 15 percent over the next decade.

In a roundtable on Wednesday, Snyder said he remains focused on three key aspects: affordability, viability and being environmentally sound, though “all in the context of being adaptable.”

With that, officials from Whirlpool, Ford Motor Company, Lenawee Intermediate School District, and others touted what their companies and institutions have done in terms of energy efficiency and reducing their energy bills, which Snyder applauded.

The roundtable was met with a welcome response from the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, a business trade association representing companies in Michigan’s advanced energy sector.

“We applaud Governor Snyder for bringing together a broad group of stakeholders to work toward reducing energy waste in Michigan. The standards contained in our state’s current energy efficiency programs are helping to save businesses and families hundreds of millions each year, all while contributing to a vibrant energy manufacturing sector that contributes more than $2 billion a year to the Michigan economy, said Council President Dan Scripps, in a statement. “We fully support the governor’s efforts to build on this success going forward.”

Larry Ward, executive director of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, shared a similar sentiment in a statement.

“Governor Rick Snyder’s roundtable today is an important step toward building an energy policy that creates jobs, saves money for Michigan families and businesses, and promotes conservatives principles,” Ward said. “The governor brought together people from many backgrounds, from business leaders to faith leaders, to be part of this critical conversation. We applaud the governor for continuing his commitment to an energy policy built on conservative ideas and conservative values.”

FEW NEW SPECIFICS: Though the governor revealed few specifics that had not already been discussed in his special message, he did indicate that before he made a move on increasing or decreasing the current 10 percent choice cap, he wants to encourage people to “make a fair choice” and urge those alternative suppliers to demonstrate the ability to meet their customers’ needs on their own.

“One of the things that didn’t exist the way I thought it should, and I think most people would agree, is if you’re one of the choice customers, you need to be working with a supplier that’s going to help assure generation, that you’re going to have the energy you need, because otherwise it’s placing a burden on the rest of us,” Snyder said. “And that’s one of the challenges with the current choice program is it’s not a fair playing field and it’s not a great answer for those people not in choice, so let’s make it a fair choice.”

He continued, “And I think what you might find is you’ll find fewer people on choice … because if you look at the future of energy, I think it’s going to be more challenging and more expensive to make sure you’re going to have power.”

Until then, he said, the state should be able to manage with the 10 percent choice cap currently in statute.

The governor reiterated his desire to see legislation allowing on-bill financing for non-municipal utilities, saying it would encourage renters, for instance, to do more energy improvements and finance it through their utility bill. He also continued his support for the Public Service Commission having the authority to look at how energy waste compares to other energy sources.

“Currently it’s not treated the same as generation,” Snyder said. “We want to make it more of an apples-to-apples comparison of those tradeoffs going through their decision-making process.”

Snyder also spoke of using incentives as “good economic motivators” but denied the need for a specific mandate in terms of renewable energy use by utilities. As to what incentives might exist and for whom, that was less clear.

“A lot of this comes down to the simple things, the products you use,” he said. “People save money by buying these products, and they probably get better performance out of those products than the products they’re replacing, in addition to the energy savings.”

He was supported in that sentiment by Jeff Noel, vice president of Whirlpool.

“When you have a state that’s focused on energy conservation and you have programs that educate the consumer, the consumer then comes in looking for (those) appliances,” Noel said. “The benefits of having a policy like yours, like what (the governor) is proposing, is not just in terms of direct benefits, but in terms of what it does in terms of changing behaviors, educating people.”

Snyder deferred to policies from the PSC in terms of programs that might help achieve a 15 percent reduction in energy waste by 2025.

“This is where I think common sense economics will push people in this direction. This is not going to be part of a mandate we push on people,” he said.

CONNECTING THE PENINSULAS: Snyder also said Wednesday that he and his administration are doing their homework on a solution to somehow connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsula on energy. He admitted it would be expensive but stressed that it is a long-term goal that he believes could make electricity more reliable.

This story was provided by Gongwer News Service. To subscribe, click on Gongwer.Com