LANSING – Thursday marked the day the state’s new energy laws that passed last term take effect, and lawmakers, agencies and stakeholders involved in that process celebrated the occasion.
Among the provisions of the energy law are increasing the state’s renewable portfolio standard from 10 percent to 15 percent by 2021; establishing a combined goal of 35 percent renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2025; and removing caps on energy efficiency spending by utilities.
The new laws, PA 341 of 2016 and PA 342 of 2016, mark the first time since 2008 there was a massive energy law rewrite for Michigan. As the terms of the 2008 law were expiring and becoming antiquated in a technologically advanced Michigan, Sen. Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek), chair of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, led the way in updating the legislation – which took an extensive amount of time to come to an agreement.
Even Larry Ward, executive director of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, said at a press conference Thursday that at one point, he and others thought the legislation might squeak its way to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. Instead, the legislation ended up seeing widespread bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, Mr. Ward noted.
“A bipartisan bill that comes through (in both chambers) doesn’t come through all that often,” Ward said. “The laws that take effect today are a win for Michigan families and businesses … by increasing renewable energy standard, the laws will make sure we have a diverse energy mix for years to come.”
He also said the legislation could strengthen national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil, make Michigan more competitive among businesses demanding increased use of new energy technologies, and in the process, attract jobs and protect ratepayers.
Liesl Clark, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, agreed. “Growth in corporate demand for advanced energy and continued declines in cost combined to move alternative energy firmly into the mainstream,” Clark said. “What we see is a large number of the jobs in Michigan are in the energy efficiency space and advanced transportation.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report on Thursday ranking the states that have made progress in clean energy. The report showed Michigan had increased its in-state renewable energy generation by 3.8 percentage points between 2011 and 2015. It also showed the state had roughly 47,870 jobs in energy efficiency in 2015, as well as 4,118 jobs in solar.
While Michigan ranked 27th nationally, it performed better than any other Midwest state on electric vehicle adoption, a statement by the group noted.
Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida), speaking at the press conference, said Michigan’s clean energy sector generated $5 billion in annual economic impact, according to a Clean Energy Trust report. Mr. Zorn was responsible for the amendment that increased the renewable energy portfolio to 15 percent.
“Also, according to a recent solar jobs report, solar industry jobs increased 48 percent in 2016, with more than 1,300 new workers on the job in Michigan,” he said. “This is a great positive for Michigan.”
Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), long a proponent of more renewable energy and the voice for Democrats in the energy debate, reflected that the reform was “crucial” in numerous aspects.
“For every one $1 invested in energy efficiency, it saves more than $4,” Hopgood said. “By expanding energy efficiency, the energy laws will make electricity more affordable and encourage employers to create more jobs.
Both the senators said they would like to see how the law plays out before determining if anything else is needed, but they were complimentary of the ability to easily change the policy when necessary.
WIDESPREAD APPLAUSE: A statement by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs heralded the new laws as placing Michigan in a position to adapt to market forces while removing barriers to a “greener and more secure energy future.”
“I’m excited for this landmark legislation to go into effect,” Governor Rick Snyder said. “Giving residents cleaner, smarter energy options will improve their daily lives and ensure a reliable energy supply for decades to come.
Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, added, “The new law will make sure we keep electric bills down by allowing us to choose the best solution, whether that is a utility building a new plant, or investing in its own customers.”
The framework helps the state’s Public Service Commission, which has primary responsibility for implementing the law, address concerns on reliability, PSC Chair Sally Talberg said.
“We are excited by the number of stakeholders that are already participating in discussions of the best way to implement the new laws,” she said.
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