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Posts from the ‘clean energy’ Category

New Public Service Commission analysis: Renewable electricity 26% cheaper than coal

Wind turbine near Pigeon, MI

Electricity from renewable clean energy sources in Michigan is at least 26 percent less expensive than comparable coal-fired electricity according to an annual analysis by the Michigan Public Service Commission released this week.

The report also says that state utilities are going to meet the 10 percent renewable electricity goal by the target date of 2015. The highlights are documented in the MPSC’s press release.

The most recent clean energy contracts – primarily wind-powered electricity – are half as expensive as just five years ago, the report concludes. The report uses “levelized cost,” which accounts for initial capital, discount rate, as well as the costs of continuous operation, fuel, and maintenance. Renewable electricity costs are just under $79 per kilowatt hour. Coal costs are $133 according to the MPSC’s estimate, or $107 using Consumers Energy’s figures.

The figures do not take into account “externalized costs” that aren’t reflected in rates – for example, the health care expenses due to coal-burning pollutants are not factored into the figures.

The costs for clean electricity are so low that Consumers Energy is seeking to eliminate its renewable energy surcharge, and Detroit Edison has lowered theirs from $3/mo to 43 cents.

Will hard data dissuade defenders of the status quo from continuing to claim that renewable energy is too expensive? Of course not. Will it be a critical factor in Gov. Rick Snyder’s eventual proposal – expected late this year or early next – on where to go next with renewable energy development? We suspect so.

You can let the governor know you want more of the cheapest and cleanest energy sources by contacting him here.  And you can tell your state rep and senator the same thing here and here.

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Sarah Mullkoff hired to lead MEC’s energy policy work

Sarah Mullkoff

Sarah Mullkoff

Sarah Mullkoff has been hired as energy program director for the Michigan Environmental Council, the organization’s president, Chris Kolb, announced last week.

Mullkoff has worked in natural resource policy in a variety of capacities, most recently as energy & climate policy coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation. There, she advanced clean energy policies and carbon reduction campaigns for NWF’s six-state Midwest region.

She previously worked for Clean Water Action as Michigan campaigns coordinator; serves on boards of directors for the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition; and volunteers for social and environmental justice causes. She also serves on the steering committee for RE-AMP, a 160-strong coalition of Midwest nonprofits and foundations working on energy policy and climate change.

Mullkoff is a graduate of Michigan State University’s James Madison School of Public Policy with a major in International Relations and specialization in Science, Technology, Environment and Public Policy. Read more

Friday linkaround: Big week for cyclists and the DNR finds a lost toddler!

Good Friday everyone! Here are some items of interest from the week that’s drawing to a close:

It was a big week for our friends at the League of Michigan Bicyclists, with two legislative victories: House passage of revised right-turn signals and vulnerable roadway user legislation.

The state released this draft report last week on its findings regarding customer choice in the electric utility market. The report stays scrupulously neutral on the question of whether to expand competitive choice beyond the current 10% cap….perhaps indicating the governor will not be proposing significant changes to the program. More explanation on the choice cap is here (PDF)

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Governor’s energy hearings start on Valentine’s Day, end on Earth Day! Be heard!

Since we love energy efficiency and clean renewable power here at MEC, it is quite appropriate that today – Valentine’s Day – is the first of seven public forums on Michigan’s energy policy called for by Governor Rick Snyder.

The findings will be assembled and delivered to policy makers by the end of this year as the basis for legislative action in 2014.

The last forum – in Traverse City – convenes, fittingly, on April 22. That’s Earth Day, the day we celebrate the planet and recommit ourselves to protecting it. What better symbolism?

A little background.

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A darn good reason for Michigan’s utilities to oppose Proposal 3′s 25×2025 clean energy standard (as long as you’re not a ratepayer)

Our state’s big utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, are spending millions to defeat Proposal 3’s 25×25 renewable energy standard even though they acknowledge renewables are creating jobs and providing homes and businesses with electricity at costs far cheaper than anticipated.

Why?

For DTE Energy – which still uses out-of-state coal to provide 70 percent of its electricity generation – a story in Detroit’s Metro Times reports a pretty darn good reason for the company to be threatened by cheaper, cleaner renewable power.

DTE is heavily invested in the coal business – shipping it, storing it, processing it and moving it across the nation.

Reports the Metro Times:

“…one of its many subsidiaries, DTE Coal Services, “is one of the largest marketers and transporters of coal to third-party customers in North America. They provide a broad range of coal sourcing, marketing, risk management, transportation, rail management and trading services nationally to coal producers, electric utilities, steel companies and other industries. DTE Coal Services is also active in trading coal, emissions and carbon in the financial and physical markets.”

And then there’s Midwest Energy Resources Co., which operates an “innovative rail-vessel trans-shipment system that handles much of the Great Lakes market for low-sulfur western coal.”

Also under the DTE umbrella is what’s known as a “reduced emission fuels” operation that treats coal so that it produces less pollution when burned. According to the company’s own estimates, that operation will generate $30 million in earnings this year and about $50 million a year beginning in 2013.”

So, what’s good for DTE’s profits and shareholders is a raw deal for lowly ratepayers.

In any other business we’d call that a conflict of interest.

In DTE’s world, it’s business as usual.

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Prop 3′s ‘sky is falling’ report’s assumptions: Garbage in, garbage out

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy issued another doomsday report recently, claiming that achieving Proposal 3’s 25% renewable electricity goal by 2025 would unleash economic Armageddon on our fair state, increasing bills hundreds of dollars annually.

The report follows a real analysis conducted by experts in energy and utility regulation that we released two weeks ago. That study says that moving to 25% clean energy would cost the average residential ratepayer 50 cents a month at the outset, and save them money in later years.

Those are two very different conclusions.

For guidance, you might read a third, independent report – the Michigan Public Service Commission’s most recent analysis. It found the cost of renewable electricity coming online in Michigan right now is far below comparable costs for more dirty, unsustainable coal power.

Additionally, it found that wind energy costs were dropping steadily, while the cost of coal delivered to Michigan jumped 71 percent in just the last four years.

So it seems like simple math would suggest that buying the cheaper power (wind energy) would cost you less than buying the expensive power from coal.

An examination of the Mackinac Center’s report explains the discrepancy.

A key assumption in the Mackinac Center report is the cost of wind energy. Wind energy will supply the lion’s share of the additional renewable energy we would need between 2015 and 2025 to reach the goals established in Proposal 3.

The Mackinac Center report is grounded in the wild and baseless contention that wind energy costs will somehow skyrocket to up to 4.5 times higher than the current signed wind contracts in Michigan.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists put it in its analysis of the Mackinac Center study:

The Mackinac Center analysis “… assumes levelized energy costs for wind that range from $149/MWh to $288/MWh in 2010. These costs are 1.5 to 3 times higher than the average cost of wind contracts in Michigan from 2009 to 2011 ($94/MWh) and as much as 4.5 times higher than the state’s most recent signed wind contracts ($61-$64/MWh), according to the Michigan Public Service Commission. (emphasis theirs)

 “ …The use of indefensibly high wind cost assumptions extends through 2025 in both the average and high cost cases.”

Or, in plain English, the Mackinac Center report’s key assumption is garbage.

You can read the Scientists’ analysis and the back-and-forth between the Mackinac Center and the UCS analysis’ author and decide for yourself.

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No Olympic bikinis? News scribe’s latest jaw dropper cites Global Freezing

Detroit News editorial board member Henry Payne suggests this week that cool temperatures to start the London Olympics (“Global freezing” he calls it) will be a real downer for “media disciples of the Green Church…” who “have been frightening Michigan and the U.S. with tales of global warming-induced drought.”

The same writer invoked the visage of Nazis – those who tortured and massacred millions — in his column about Germany’s renewable energy program titled, “Sieg Heil, warmingmongers” last year. He warned darkly of coming “civil unrest” and “grim war” in the United States because of President Obama’s “radical green vision.”

He’s also the genius who wrote that, because of snowfall in Dallas last year, “global warming” had been “debunked on the grandest stage of all: The Super Bowl.”

Of course, 2011 turned out to be the ninth warmest year on record globally, and the 35th consecutive year that global average temperatures were above 20th century average. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record (dating back to 1880) have been since 2000.

What’s more, a colder Europe in the short-term is consistent with climate models for reasons that have to do with altered ocean currents and melting Arctic sea ice.

But Payne and his colleagues in the News editorial tower have little use for sources like NASA or the World Meteorological Association. Instead, Yahoo! Sports is his source: “It might be too cold for the beach volleyball players to wear bikinis at the Olympics,” he quotes Yahoo.

Detroit News readers deserve better.

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Déjà vu

We’re a nation of champion procrastinators. That’s my conclusion after reading National Geographic’s special report, Energy: Facing up to the problem, getting down to solutions.

The piece is straightforward with hardly any breaking news. For instance, who (at least among those based in reality) doesn’t already know that the U.S. economy has been heavily dependent on cheap energy? Or that our insatiable thirst for petroleum sends countless dollars overseas and leaves us vulnerably dependant on unstable parts of world? Or that burning coal releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide, destabilizing our protective climate?

But why the unkind charge of procrastination?

Because the National Geographic special report was published way back in February 1981! (Special thanks to Chris Kolb who found it while helping his mom recycle her old magazines.) Read more

Tuesday Linkaround: Leelanau tops healthy list and U.P. mining gets national exposure

Or maybe it's Leelanau's grapes?

Michigan’s Leelanau County is at the top of the list of the state’s healthiest counties,  according to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Parts of Southeast Michigan, the Grand Traverse area and West Michigan seemed to house most of the healthiest counties; check out where your county landed in the study. Do you think Leelanau’s ranking had anything to do with its utterly refreshingly lack of fast food restaurants?

Farther North yet, the Christian Science Monitor has surveyed the imminent mining boom in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with this reporting. The otherwise even-handed piece fails to note that the current type of mining is much different and riskier than the mining of the U.P.’s past. So-called sulfide mining is a explained here.

Moving into urban issues, the historic River Rouge coal plant was the largest of its kind on earth when it opened in 1956. Mother Jones has a terrific photographic essay on the aging plant’s visual legacy. Scroll down the photos far enough to see the Sierra Club’s indefatiguable Rhonda Anderson, along with a good analysis of how her organization (an MEC member and ally) is working not just to replace the behemoth with cleaner energy, but help the community better absorb the loss of jobs the plant’s closure will create.

One of the state’s most invisible environmental challenges are the thousands of leaking underground petroleum tanks across the state. These sites threaten drinking water, surface water, soils and in some cases public health. Here’s the first in a Bridge Magazine series done by Michigan journalist and author Jeff Alexander. He explains how if the state does not act decisively, the problem will only get more costly.

Hey, there’s good news too: The Federal Government and five states, including Michigan, have come to an agreement to expedite the process of building off-shore wind farms around the Great Lakes region.

Finally, under the heading clean technology, some crazy Belgian is trying make pigeons poop soap, to help clean the cities they now soil. MEC has no position on soap-pooping pigeons.

— Marco Salomone contributed to this post

TGIF Linkaround!

Gotta make the boss happy so let’s start with this replay of MEC President Chris Kolb on last week’s Focus on the Environment show on Eastern Michigan University’s WEMU radio. Kolb, with co-host Lisa Wozniak of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, talked about Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget, the Kalamazoo River oil spill cleanup and other issues.

Next let’s visit our neighbors down south…you know, the ones we grudgingly sharedone-third of our Big Ten men’s basketball championship with this year.

Don't try this at home

They’re wrestling overhow much unregulated water users should be able to siphon from Lake Erie and its tributaries. We defer to our friends at the Ohio Environmental Council who say the proposal is getting better, but isn’t good enough. Oh, and see you in the Big Dance, Buckeyes!

Down in Brooklyn, MI, home of Pumpkin Quest (!), people turned out for a discussion on the rewards and risks of a new and more intensive wave of fracking in Michigan. MEC’s James Clift was a panelist, though he didn’t make this radio station’s audio clip report that included State Rep. Mike Shirkey, who organized the forum.

Up north, MEC ally and member group Michigan Land Use Institute has this excellent story on Consumers Energy’s solar lottery. Twice as many people applied for the program as there were slots. We think we should let more people participate, and the 25×25 ballot issue will be the way to do it. Or, we could just throw our burgeoning renewable energy industry under the bus like State Rep. Ray Franz would do.

In weather news …… WHASSSUP Springtime??!! MEC has two beekeepers in the office, and their girls were happy with the mild winter. But the loss of ice cover on the Great Lakes – 79 percent over 38 years – is no small matter. Also, we may see more nasty insects this summer as a result. Hey, maybe Grist is right and a climate change conspiracy theorists make no %$#!!& sense.

Finally, in the “we can’t make this stuff up” category, here are two things MEC is not staking out a position on:  This lunatic with a wood stove heater in his Volvo, and these people who are fertilizing soybeans with urine.

Have a good weekend, and don’t forget to spring ahead!

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