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Workgroup starts crafting Michigan’s new energy policy this week

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State law forces power companies to get 10% of their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by next year. It’s a target they’re expected to meet.

The state issued a report last year that shows companies could get as much at 30% by 2035. But there’s no law that requires that, yet. It’s something a workgroup will consider as it works this summer to update Michigan’s energy policy.

State Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) will help lead the group.

He admits it'll probably be easier to come to an agreement on energy efficiencystandards than a new renewable energy mandate.

“My concern in that area and why it may take longer is that people are just so fixated on a number,” Nofs said.

Nofs suggests a clean energy standard instead, one that considers pollution levels of energy sources rather than whether a source is considered renewable. That way the standard wouldn’t need to be updated with every new energy technology that comes along.

Michigan voters rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution in 2012 that would’ve required power companies to get 25% of their power from renewable sources by 2025.

Nofs points out Ohio is likely to put its ambitious renewable energy standards on hold.

“Some people want to say numbers and compare us to other states; I’d rather say we have a clean-energy standard. I’m a little bit more realistic when it comes to that. That’s why I sort of want to get away from a number,” he said. “I think a lot of people would be satisfied with that as a goal for the state of Michigan: clean, affordable, reliable energy.”

Nofs says the workgroup’s conversation will include whatever carbon emission standards the federal government proposes to states. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a draft proposal on Monday morning that will include stricter standards on carbon pollution.

Michigan homes and businesses get more than half their electricity from coal plants, which are heavy carbon emitters.

“I think we’re way ahead of everybody. We’ve set realistic standards, we’ve worked with the federal government. It’s actually perfect timing,” Nofs said of the federal changes.

Nofs hopes the group will have a new energy bill for the Legislature to vote on by the fall.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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