- Former Shell Oil President, Top Gov. Snyder Staff Share Vision for American Energy Renaissance at Major Detroit-Area Forum
Hofmeister left Shell Oil Company to found Citizens for Affordable Energy, a nonprofit that educates people about how to go green at the local level. He says CFAE was founded on a non-partisan platform in 2011 to educate citizens and government officials about affordable energy solutions, environmental protection, energy alternatives, efficiency, infrastructure, public policy, competitiveness, social cohesion, and quality of life.
- Consumers Energy leads energy optimization in Michigan businesses and homes
The Renewable Portfolio Standard requires 10 percent of the state's energy portfolio be renewable by 2015, Malone says. In 2008, Consumers Energy was producing 4 percent renewable energy, he says, but opened its first wind farm in Mason County.
- Michigan Saves makes going green easy and affordable
More than 2,000 homes have been improved through Michigan Saves, she says, and each homeowner saves, on average, $450 each year on their utility bill. Using a network of local credit unions, Michigan Saves brings financing and contracting experts together to identify ways to lower homeowners' utility costs, Metty Bennett says.
- Valerie Brader: Working to ensure Michigan's energy and environmental future
The adaptability of future energy policies is incredibly important to Gov. Snyder, Brader says. Future energy and environmental policies will focus on affordable energy, reliable energy and protecting our environment, she says, which aim to suit a variety of futures.
- Hydraulic fracturing in Michigan lowers fuel costs and could create jobs, decreasing dependence on foreign energy
Because of the influx of media coverage of hydraulic fracturing, Cook says, people think the process is new and they are increasingly skeptical. "This is something we've been doing for 50 years," he says, "and we've had no problems of any contamination of water wells in northern Michigan."
Can a National Clean Energy Standard Energize Clean Technology Development?
"To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy." - Pres. George W. Bush
In the event it isn't abundantly obvious to just about everyone, modern society requires the generation of energy to keep the wheels and bits moving. Just as clear is that the generation of energy results in unwanted byproducts that affect our environment and health. Few of us want to become ill or have our favorite fishing spot or vacation getaway spoiled by pollution. Also, many do not want to see any more government spending. The trick is how we can have our cake and eat it, too.
The development of clean energy is a complex problem to solve. Federal and state governments have worked on providing various financial and tax incentives to promote the growth of clean energy sources, along with efficiency, to reduce our modern society's effects on our planet's ecosystem. Another option being considered is using market mechanisms to develop a broad range of clean energy options, without ever selecting one, and allow energy producers identify which mix of technologies work best.
Under legislation proposed in the United States Senate, called the "Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012," a Clean Energy Standard (CES) would be developed, which would require large electrical utilities to ramp up their use of clean energy technologies over time, but allow the utilities the flexibility of deciding which technologies work best for them. Smaller utilities would not be subject to the requirements, but could participate and sell credits generated to them for using clean energy technologies on the open market. In short, the large utilities would have the option of using clean energy or buy credits from those who do to meet their requirements. And none of this requires investment of tax dollars.
Obviously, the first question is what qualifies as a "clean energy technology"? That term is quite broad and includes electrical energy that is generated using renewable energy, renewable biomass, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear power or waste-to-energy generation. It may also include combined heat and power sources or any other source with low carbon intensity, which may also include coal with carbon sequestration.
Beginning in 2015, the large retail electricity generators (estimated to be eight percent of the utilities in 2015 and 13 percent in 2025) would need to generate 24 percent of their electricity from clean energy sources, with three percent increases every year until 2035, at which point 84 percent would be the minimum. Given that natural gas is considered a clean energy technology, the drafters anticipate that natural gas production will lead in the first years of the program, with other technologies coming on line as they mature or, in the case of nuclear energy, get approved for production. In short, the Act does not expect that any one technology will dominate, but that the generators will decide how best to meet the standard or, in the alternative, buy credits from other energy producers. Yet, this program would not put a direct cap on electricity generation or emissions.
The next obvious question is what will this cost? Under the Bill's provisions, there would be no tax dollars expended, so it will have no net effect on the federal government's budget. But, there are concerns about what it may to rates for electric power. The sponsor of the Bill, Senator Bingaman, commissioned the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) to analyze what a national CES would mean. In EIA's November 2011 study, it analyzed several options that differed slightly from the Act as introduced (the assumptions were more aggressive than the proposed Act). But, it found that the effect of a CES similar to the one proposed by the Bill would have negligible effect on rates through 2020. After 2022, overall national rates would be 3.6 percent higher than the base model in 2025, but these costs would be different for each region of the country. The Bill also leaves in place state renewable portfolio standards, like Michigan's.
The proposed national CES standard seeks to increase the use of "clean" energy sources without the need for government tax dollars and using market mechanisms to allow generators seek the best mix of technologies. As far as likelihood of success, given the current gridlock in Congress, it is hard to see any kind of energy legislation pass, although previous versions of a national CES had received bipartisan support. While 2012 may not bring in a national CES standard, it is not that unlikely that one will exists sometime in the future. The benefits of such a program result in a cleaner environment, fewer health issues related to energy generation, less dependence of foreign sources of energy, and the development of home grown energy technologies.
The author, Saulius Mikalonis, is an environmental attorney with over 25 years of experience in the Bloomfield Hills offices of Plunkett Cooney. He is also the author of The Green Blawg, in which he writes about environmental law issues for the non-lawyer. In addition to practicing law, Mr. Mikalonis is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills Campus, at which he teaches a course entitled "Sustainable Development Law & Policy" and a former Board Member of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).