Editorial

Senate energy proposal is out of touch and sets state back

June 3, 2016
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Michigan Senate Energy and Technology Committee members have spent this entire year reviewing Michigan’s comprehensive energy policy to update the state’s 2008 energy law now expiring. The more-than-six-month effort proves to be little more than legislative appeasement of existing utility companies rather than thoughtful energy policy consistent with new millennium technologies and expectations. As the University of Michigan Energy Institute noted in its newsletter, the investor-owned utilities are among the few backers of the proposal.

Grand Rapids Business Journal notes the rightful outrage coming from all sectors of the business community including the Michigan Agri-Business Association. Jim Byrum, association president, fired off a press release denouncing the bill at introduction near the Memorial Day weekend.

“We oppose these bills because they do not preserve the strong energy efficiency standards that have allowed our industry to work with the utilities on energy savings,” he said, adding that until the current energy law, utilities had no energy efficiency programs in place serving agriculture, and that programs now available are “the direct result of the mandatory standards contained in current law.”

He’s not alone; the outrage has been universal among business groups, including the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Utility company self-pity parties center on whether competitors in and coming into the Michigan market can prove they provide sustainable power supplies and can meet their fair share of reliability requirements. Such “proof” of supply is already addressed. The proposed legislation changes Michigan’s choice law, which allows up to 10 percent of utility customers to shop for energy and guarantees DTE and Consumers Energy at least 90 percent of energy sales in their markets.

Meijer, Amway, Steelcase and a long list of West Michigan companies are invested in Michigan’s continued move forward on new energy policies. Health care and educational institutions that have counted savings since the 2008 legislation also have opposed the Senate proposal. Even regional breweries have heavily invested in alternative and renewable power for operations. GRACC government affairs director Josh Lunger told the Business Journal, “We like the competitive market pressures, and we like the benefit the choice market brings to Michigan, and we want to see it preserved.”

The Senate proposal is clearly out of step and far off the mark of their rate-paying constituents and with the business community, which continues to invest in energy alternatives and, most importantly, energy market shopping.

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