DTE, Consumers Energy want to shut off Michigan’s renewable energy mandates
LANSING — Since Michigan’s energy law was adopted in 2008, billions of dollars have been spent in the state’s emerging renewable energy industry — building infrastructure, adding jobs and lowering costs.
With the help of the state’s two largest utilities, which are required under state law to generate electricity from renewable sources, nearly $3 billion has been invested on wind, solar, biomass and other clean power sources across the state.
Now, the utilities want state lawmakers to end the standards that contributed to those results — mandates that governed the amount of electricity they produce from renewable sources.
Detroit’s DTE Energy Co. and Jackson-based Consumers Energy say they don’t need mandates to expand their investment in solar and wind power. Rather, they believe new rules from the federal Environmental Protection Agency requiring utilities to reduce their carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030 will ensure further investments in alternative energy.
Their position has changed in seven years: Both companies supported including renewable standards when the Legislature approved the first energy law.
“There are some who believe that we won’t do it unless we’re forced to do it. I don’t agree,” said Irene Dimitry, DTE’s business planning and development vice president. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Not everyone is convinced. Groups from the Sierra Club to some large industrial corporations — led by Benton Harbor-based appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. — say Senate bills that would eliminate Michigan’s renewable energy standard and a companion mandate requiring programs to reduce energy use would cause the utilities to scale back their efforts in pursuit of higher profits.
“Investor-owned energy companies have little incentive to sell less energy and reap less profit,” the Sierra Club’s Michigan chapter said in recent Senate testimony, “but as regulated monopolies they can and should be required to help their customers reduce energy waste.”
Gov. Rick Snyder also has advocated for upping Michigan’s renewable targets — as much as 24 percent of a utility’s electric portfolio by 2025, he said in March. And, he added, Michigan should aim for a combined renewable and efficiency target of 30 percent to 40 percent within a decade, based on costs.