Michigan, a comeback state for clean energy

When it comes to energy, Michigan has a tremendous opportunity to truly live up to Gov. Rick Snyder’s charge to become a comeback state. We are well-positioned to reduce our reliance on outdated technology such as dirty coal plants and invest in renewable energy like wind and solar. In the process, we can create good-paying jobs right here in Michigan, spark innovation and entrepreneurship, and reduce dangerous pollution that taints our clean air and water.

The recently-proposed Clean Power Plan is critical to encouraging continued growth of renewable energy as well as energy efficiency, both of which will move Michigan forward. This federal plan will hold polluters accountable, reduce dangerous emissions into clean air and Great Lakes and create Michigan jobs. Further, the Clean Power Plan compliments current state law that set a goal of 10 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2015, which we are on track to meet or exceed.

Two of the central building blocks of the Clean Power Plan include increased use of energy efficiency and renewable energy that will allow us to build upon the energy policy we have already passed and the successes we’ve seen so far here in Michigan.

Here’s a fact: Clean energy has generated more than $2 billion in economic activity and more than 100,000 jobs in the Great Lakes State.

According to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), customers save nearly $4 for every $1 invested in energy efficiency. More energy efficiency under the Clean Power Plan means Michigan households could save $462 million a year, or $109 per household, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). More energy efficiency also means an estimated 6,900 new jobs in efficiency-related industries, according to the NRDC analysis. Bottom line: Investing in energy efficiency is a smart move for Michigan.

The Clean Power Plan also opens the door to significant growth in Michigan’s blossoming renewable energy sector.

Solar energy prices are dropping dramatically, and wind energy is now half the cost of coal, according to the MPSC.

When it comes to energy, the path forward is clear: Renewable energy and energy efficiency are critical to economic growth and Michigan’s comeback. They’re also vital to reducing toxic pollution that endangers our clean water and clean air, and the health of and our communities.

The real challenge for renewable energy isn’t cost. It’s the scare tactics and fear-mongering by those who profit from polluting. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are the two main pillars of a 21st century energy policy that can make our nation more energy independent and reduce our dependence on foreign energy such as oil.

The status quo of continuing our reliance on imported oil and coal is unsustainable for Michigan and our nation. It is a status quo that benefits polluters, and at an annual price tag of $1.7 billion to import coal into our state every year, it is a costly roadblock that stands in the way of forward progress.

Michigan and our nation have a clear choice: Either we go backwards and continue spending billions of dollars importing our energy from other states and foreign countries. Or we can invest in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency right here at home that will lead to more jobs, cleaner air and water, and real energy independence. If Michigan truly wants to be a comeback state, the path is right in front of us. The time is now for our elected officials to build a strong energy future and lead the way.

Lisa Wozniak, executive director,

Michigan League of Conservation Voters