Guest Column

Clean energy: a boon for Michigan businesses

September 29, 2017
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Businesses are drawn to Michigan for its trademark ingenuity and competitive spirit. It’s one of the reasons why Worthen Industries and Brewery Vivant call Grand Rapids home. Today, Michigan is on the cusp of a clean energy revolution, and we’re proud to join a coalition of businesses that support this new clean-energy economy. Building on the success of bipartisan energy legislation passed in December 2016, lawmakers recently introduced new proposals to continue to raise the bar on Michigan’s renewable energy and energy-efficiency standards. As legislators return to Lansing from the summer recess, lawmakers should consider new clean energy proposals that will continue to attract businesses to Michigan.

In June, senators Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) and Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), and representatives Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) and Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) introduced twin packages, SB 475, HB 4792 and SB 476, HB 4791, to increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard to 50 percent by 2035 (from 15 percent by 2021) and boost annual energy efficiency savings from 1 percent to 2 percent of annual electricity sales beginning in 2022. Together, these bills would generate significant savings for businesses and ratepayers and make Michigan a clean energy leader in the Midwest.

As a local manufacturer that supplies adhesives and coatings to automakers and footwear companies around the world, Worthen Industries knows that access to clean energy is key to keeping our company competitive. At Brewery Vivant, our pub, brewery and warehouse mostly are powered by renewable energy, some of which comes from solar panels directly on our rooftop. Businesses are constantly benefiting from manufacturing improvements that reduce energy waste and improve productivity because the cheapest form of electricity is the electricity we don’t use.

Successful companies like ours always are looking for ways to save money, reduce risks and plan for the future. Michigan’s clean energy standards put more renewable energy on the grid, helping businesses like ours guard against the volatility of fossil fuel prices and stay competitive. Michigan’s largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, understand this and have made considerable commitments to renewable energy investment because it will benefit their bottom line.

During the previous legislative session, Worthen Industries and Brewery Vivant worked with Ceres, a business sustainability nonprofit, to join other major corporate energy buyers, including General Mills, Nestlé and Staples, to push for stronger clean energy standards. The 15-percent target was a step in the right direction, but we know more can be done. Michigan lawmakers can ramp up their ambition and drive market growth with the support of the business community.

The renewable energy and energy-efficiency standards demonstrate that we can have clean, renewable energy that also is reliable and affordable. Since the first energy-efficiency standard was enacted in 2009, Michigan ratepayers have saved more than $5 billion. New energy technologies also can create new jobs, growth and investment for the state — making Michigan a great place to do business.

With demand for clean, renewable energy at an all-time high, Michigan has the opportunity to thrive in a clean energy economy and become a leader in this burgeoning industry. State lawmakers should step up their commitment to clean energy and spur Michigan’s trademark ingenuity. We hope to see lawmakers continue to raise the bar moving forward.

David Worthen is president of Worthen Industries, which has a manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids. Kris Spaulding is sustainability director and owner of Brewery Vivant, a microbrewery in Grand Rapids.

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