Myths vs. facts on renewable energy


In its December 16 editorial, "Don't shield windmills," The Detroit News regurgitates several myths and misunderstandings about renewable energy. Gov. Rick Snyder has said that updating Michigan's energy policy will be a top priority in early 2015 and it's important to clear the air ahead of what is sure to be a robust debate.

Renewable energy is affordable.

Michigan's clean energy policy has been highly successful. Since its implementation in 2008, the costs of renewable energy generation have been cut in half. Driven by advances in technology, private-sector competition and economies of scale, wind and solar are today far cheaper than coal and in some cases less expensive than natural gas. Much like the price of flat screen TVs and computers have come down over the years, the cost of renewable energy is likely to continue to decline.

Recent Michigan wind contracts are coming in at $45-$50 per megawatt hour. And the Lansing Board and Water and Light recently received bids to purchase solar power as low as $65 per megawatt hour. This compares to Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) estimates of coal at $133 per megawatt hour and $70 per megawatt hour for natural gas.

It is important to clear up another point: Michigan does not subsidize renewable energy. Clean energy, including wind and solar, receives no subsidies from the state of Michigan.

Wind and other renewable energy sources can be integrated into Michigan's energy mix in a way that reduces costs while maintaining reliability. Twenty nine other states get substantially more of their energy from renewable sources than Michigan, all without any decrease in reliability. This includes our Midwest neighbor Iowa, which gets more than 25 percent of its energy from wind.

In 2013, Gov. Snyder's administration concluded that Michigan could cost-effectively obtain 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035 without impacting reliability.

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that wind energy can actually improve overall grid reliability.

Michigan's renewable energy unlocked more than $2.2 billion in renewable energy investment from 2009-2013, according to the MPSC. This growth in advanced energy has spurred new market opportunities for Michigan manufacturers, with manufacturing connected to advanced energy contributing $7.2 billion annually to the Michigan economy. Increasing our use of renewable energy could add an additional $6.7 billion to the state's economy over the next 10 years, according to a study commissioned by the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum.

Michigan is a top five state nationally each of the past two quarters for job creation related to advanced energy.

A Michigan advanced energy employment survey found that Michigan advanced energy firms remain optimistic, with 72 percent of companies expecting to hire more workers in 2015.

The Snyder administration has done extensive work to review Michigan's energy policy. Snyder named passing a new energy policy one of his top priorities for early 2015. With several 50-year old coal plants slated for closure over the next few years, the time is ripe for Michigan to transition to energy that is more efficient, affordable, reliable and clean.

Dan Scripps, president,

Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council