Wilson: Clean Power Plan could boost Michigan economy
On Aug. 3, President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Michigan’s economy is poised to thrive under the plan, with its immense renewable energy resources and expertise.
The ruling comes at an optimal time, with costs of Michigan-made wind power continuing to drop – 10 percent since 2011, and 50 percent from contracts approved in 2009 and 2010. Newly built wind power is now cost-competitive with new coal-fired plants, according to a Michigan Public Service Commission report released earlier this year.
The energy is reliable too, according to a recent analysis by the Brattle Group; wind power can reliably supply much higher amounts of electricity than are currently integrated into Michigan’s energy mix. This has been demonstrated by wind power supplying as much as 40 percent on the main Texas grid earlier this year, and 60 percent on the main utility system in Colorado.
Opponents of the Clean Power Plan argue that the ruling will hurt Michigan businesses. In fact, in-state renewable power investment has totaled $2.9 billion through 2014. Renewable power sources increasingly help businesses plan and grow, providing affordable electricity rates for companies.
The threat of a rise in monthly electric bills has been debunked as well. Even using outdated cost assumptions for renewable power in the draft rule, the U.S. Energy Information Administration only projects a 1.3 percent increase in nationwide electricity bills by 2030, with cost savings (0.3 percent) by 2040. It’s the kind of long-term investment that makes fiscal sense for generations to come.
In Michigan, the rule calls for a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent by 2030. While 32 percent may seem like a large portion of our energy sources, the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2012 Renewable Electricity Futures study demonstrates that Michigan actually has the potential to meet far more of our electricity needs with renewable power, 47 percent by 2030, in a high demand growth scenario.
This development would attract more than $9 billion in additional wages and benefits to the state during project construction, and $276 million in annual wages and benefits during project operation. In that scenario, the state would also create over 160,000 additional jobs during construction, and 5,000 jobs during operation.
At Heritage Sustainable Energy, LLC, we’re installing and operating wind farms throughout the state that are reliable enough for large scale customers like DTE and Consumers Energy to depend on. We’ve built large-scale projects in Huron, Delta and Missaukee counties, and have more on the way. Our largest wind farm, Stoney Corners, alone generates an amount of energy capable of powering over 13,000 average households annually.
With every project, we make every effort to source the majority of the materials and labor from right here in Michigan, creating further economic benefits as a result. We have integrated our turbine suppliers with Michigan-based manufacturers of wind turbine components, and these companies are seeing substantial growth opportunities that translate to Michigan jobs.
According to Detroit Edison Company, the booming wind energy market in Michigan will create approximately 25,000 new jobs and support the development of around 1,000 new businesses. In addition to the jobs and locally-sourced products we invest in, our projects have a tremendous local impact through tax payments that provide funding for schools, health services, police, fire and roads, among other things.
Michigan has a strong foothold in the renewable energy industry, which stands to grow under the Clean Power Plan. Our state Legislature would do well to enact an energy policy that builds on the opportunity to strengthen our economy and create jobs throughout the state.
Rick Wilson is vice president of operations at Heritage Sustainable Energy, a renewable energy provider headquartered in Traverse City.