When I read Gov. Rick Snyderís renewable energy report, I was pleased to see that Michigan can easily move away from powering our state with outdated and dirty fossil fuels like coal. Weíre already on track to reach 10 percent renewable energy by 2015 and that number could easily increase to 30 percent by 2035, maybe even more.
Thatís when I read the additional areas of the report and found myself frustrated. As a ratepayer, I want DTE ó the people I pay to keep the lights on ó and other utilities around the state to invest more in renewable energy.
Why? Because coal, which makes up 75 percent of DTEís energy portfolio, and other fossil fuels have the second largest impact on my utility rates.
Coal prices have continued to rise in Michigan, which jacks up utility rates for all of us. From 2004 to 2012, Michiganís total fuel price costs increased by 96 percent.
Our state gets about 50 percent of our electricity from coal ó all of which is imported from outside the state. Weíre sending about $1.2 billion to other states to pay for this dirty, expensive and outdated fuel source.
If utilities really cared about their customers, they would aggressively pursue alternative forms of energy production like wind and solar power.
Renewable energy costs are more stable and cheaper than fossil fuels and donít contribute to climate change or have negative impacts on peoplesí health.
The governorís report suggests overcapacity relative to sales is the main cause of our higher rates. Basically, utilities are selling less electricity than they did in 2006 and 2007 because of customers leaving, energy efficiency improvements and big industrial improvements. Electric sales will continue to decline or at the worst, stay flat.
Itís clear that coal is not the way of the future and yet, Consumers Energy and DTE have too many coal plants.
Utilities still have the same number of coal plants as they did in 2006, which cost even more money to operate because of added emission controls. Consumers is taking steps to reduce their dependence on coal, but DTE plans to only close down one of their smallest plants. This is not acceptable.
I urge people to go to www.michigan.gov/energy and comment on the report.
Ratepayers are the ones paying the bills, and we should get a say in how our energy is produced. I want my utility bills to be smaller, but even more importantly, I donít want a future that is bogged down with coal ash, high asthma rates and an ever warming planet because of fossil fuels like coal.
Frank Zaski lives in Franklin.
He is a DTE Energy shareholder, ratepayer and concerned citizen.