Michigan Governor Pushes Big Cut in Fossil Fuel Use, Touts Renewable Energy

February 04, 2009

In her State of the State speech on February 3, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm set a goal of reducing the state's reliance on fossil fuels for generating electricity by 45 percent by 2020. Reaching that goal, she said, will require more growth in the state's renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, which will create more jobs. She also praised the economic benefits that those industries have already brought to Michigan.

Granholm said the state could reach the "45-by-20" goal and gain jobs by "spending our energy dollars" on Michigan-produced wind turbines, solar panels, and energy efficiency devices, instead of spending nearly $2 billion per year importing coal or natural gas from other states.

In October 2008, Michigan enacted a renewable energy standard, requiring the state's investor-owned utilities, alternative retail suppliers, electric cooperatives, and municipal electric utilities to generate 10% of their retail electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2015. Since then, Granholm said, three wind manufacturers in the state announced expansions: Mariah Power in Manistee, Global Wind Systems in Novi, and Cascade Swift Turbine in Grand Rapids. In addition, Uni-Solar announced another solar panel factory in Battle Creek, HSC announced a billion-dollar expansion for producing solar panel materials near Saginaw, Dow Corning announced a new solar panel facility, and Great Lakes Turbine has decided to locate in Monroe.

"The fact that these jobs exist in Michigan today is no accident," Granholm said. "These jobs are here because we put a strategy in place to bring them here—often by beating out other states and other countries to get them." She later added, "But we need morejobs—a lot more."

Granholm said that the 45-by-20 goal is achievable and cited the state government's 23 percent reduction in electricity use over the past three years as an example. That effort saved taxpayers about $60 million.

To help reach the 45-by-20 goal, Granholm said she would:

  • Ask the legislature to make Michigan the first state in the nation to allow every homeowner and business to make money by installing wind turbines and solar panels on their property and then selling the energy back to their utilities. Such legislation, she said, would create a new market for large and small wind turbines and solar panels made in the state.
  • Ask the Public Service Commission to change how rates are set, so that utilities make money by helping customers conserve energy.
  • Create a Michigan Energy Corps to put unemployed people back to work weatherizing buildings, installing renewable energy technology and processing natural resources into renewable fuels.
  • Launch a program called Michigan Saves, in conjunction with utility companies, that would allow families and businesses to weatherize their homes and buildings and install Michigan-made energy efficiency technology with no up-front costs. The monthly savings, she said, will pay for the cost of the improvements.

These efforts will lessen the need for new coal power plants, Granholm said. She has directed the Department of Environmental Quality to work with the Public Service Commission in evaluating the need for additional electricity generation and "all feasible and prudent alternatives" before approving new coal-fired power plants in the state.

To learn more, read the governor's February 3 State of the State speech (PDF 133 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

To read more about renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Michigan, see: