Quantcast

How One State Can Triple Its Renewable Energy Use at No Additional Cost

Business

By Sam Gomberg

With Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent announcement of clean energy goals for Michigan, the conversation is quickly developing around the future role of renewable energy in the state. To help inform that conversation, a newly released analysis by my Union of Concerned Scientists colleagues and me found that Michigan can triple its use of renewable energy—from 10 percent in 2015 to 33 percent in 2030—at virtually no cost to consumers. Here’s how.

Graphic credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

Keep the renewable energy transition moving

Michigan’s current renewable electricity standard (RES)—which requires utilities to meet 10 percent of the state’s electricity demand with renewable energy resources by 2015 — is a success, but it’s about to level off unless additional policies are put in place to extend it.

Michigan utilities are well on their way towards meeting the full standard, and a discussion has been underway for more than a year about what should come next. That discussion produced a wealth of information about how renewable energy is working right now for Michigan and how there’s potential to do more.

So we decided to take a deeper dive into the data and paint a clearer picture of what Michigan’s energy future might look like if it strengthens its commitment to developing renewable energy resources. Using the Regional Energy Deployment System model developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, we examined the impacts on consumers, the economy, and the environment of three potential scenarios for meeting Michigan’s future electricity demand:

  1. Continuing without policies in place to further drive renewable energy development
  2. Increasing Michigan’s RES to 17.5 percent by the year 2020
  3. Increasing Michigan’s RES to 32.5 percent by the year 2030

Michigan can affordably meet 32.5 percent of its electricity needs and reap significant economic, public health and environmental benefits

Our findings show that Michigan can affordably meet 32.5 percent of its electricity needs with in-state renewable energy resources by 2030 while maintaining reliability in the electricity system. Doing so will spur billions of dollars of investment in Michigan, cut electricity sector carbon dioxide emissions, and reduce the risks to consumers of an over-reliance on coal or natural gas.

What’s even better is that developing Michigan’s renewable energy resources can be done with virtually no increase in electricity costs over the next 15 years. Ramping up renewable energy to meet 32.5 percent of demand in 2030 adds just 0.3 percent to the cost of meeting Michigan’s electricity demand from 2014 to 2030. In some years, average retail electricity prices are actually lower under a 32.5 percent RES scenario. Pursuing a less robust RES, 17.5 percent by 2020, significantly reduces the economic, public health, and environmental benefits without reducing the costs.

According to our analysis, establishing a 32.5 percent by 2030 RES in Michigan means:

  • Sustained and robust development of Michigan’s renewable energy resources: Michigan’s renewable energy industries would add an average of about 550 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy capacity per year, totaling more than 11,000 MW by 2030. Without policy support beyond 2015, renewable energy development in Michigan would remain largely stagnant from 2014 to 2030.

A look at renewable energy in Michigan, comparing business as usual versus a 32.5 percent by 2030 RES. Graphic credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

  • Significant economic benefits: The development of Michigan’s renewable energy resources would drive more than $9.5 billion in new capital investments from 2016 to 2030. By 2030, renewable energy facilities would also add nearly $570 million in operation and maintenance payments and more than $21 million in land lease payments annually.

Economic Investments in Michigan Under a 32.5 Percent by 2030 RES

Under a 32.5 percent by 2030 RES, more than $9.5 billion is invested in building nearly 9,400 MW of new renewable energy capacity. Annual operation and maintenance needs garner another $567 million in local spending in 2030. Graphic credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

  • Reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions: Reduced dependence on coal and natural gas would lower CO2 emissions by more than 65 million tons from 2014 to 2030—equivalent to the annual emissions of 15 typical-size (600 MW) coal plants.

  • A more diverse electricity supply for Michigan: Renewable energy development, led primarily by wind energy, would displace both coal and natural gas in Michigan’s electricity generation mix, leading to lower risks to consumers resulting from an overreliance on fossil fuels to meet electricity demand.

It’s time for Michigan to increase its commitment to renewable energy by extending and strengthening its renewable electricity standard.

Michigan has vast in-state renewable energy resources—more than enough to meet the state’s 2012 electricity demand several times over. These resources remain largely untapped today as the state continues to rely heavily on its aging and inefficient coal fleet to generate electricity. This overreliance on fossil fuels generates substantial air pollution and carbon emissions, and takes a significant toll on public health, the state’s economy, and the climate. Renewable energy offers an electricity resource that is reliable, affordable, adaptable, and protective of the environment—all goals that Gov. Snyder has laid out for the state’s electricity sector.

Our analysis builds on a growing list of resources showing how renewable energy is working for Michigan right now and how it can continue to provide economic, public health, and environmental benefits for the state. With Michigan’s current RES set to level off in 2015, Gov. Snyder and the Michigan legislature should work toward passing an RES policy for Michigan that includes achieving at least 30 percent renewable energy by 2030. Delaying legislative action only means delaying a cleaner, more reliable, more economically beneficial energy future for Michigan.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD

By Elliott Negin

On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.

Read More Show Less
The study looked at three groups of diverse lizards from South America. Daniel Pincheira-Donoso
  1. Cold-climate lizards that give live birth to their offspring are more likely to be driven to extinction than their egg-laying cousins as global temperatures continue to rise, new research suggests.
Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Denmark isn't interested in selling Greenland to the U.S., so now President Trump doesn't want to visit.

Read More Show Less
A stock photo of fire in the Amazon; a record number of fires have burned there this year. Brasil2 / E+ / Getty Images

There are a record number of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil's space agency has said. Their smoke is visible from space and shrouded the city of São Paulo in darkness for about an hour Monday afternoon, CBS news reported.

Read More Show Less

Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images

By Nicole Greenfield

Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.

Read More Show Less
TeamDAF / Getty Images Plus

The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less