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Michigan Legislature sends energy policy re-write to governor

A coal-fired power plant
Holland BPW
The legislation is intended to help utilities replace coal-fired plants.

A major rewrite of Michigan’s energy policy is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

The main focus of the bills is helping utilities replace coal-fired plants that are shutting down. That’s expensive, and utilities demanded guarantees they won’t lose too many customers to alternative energy suppliers.

The compromise still preserves much of the state’s program that allows a percentage of customers to choose their energy company.

State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, chairs the House Energy Committee. He says finding common ground wasn’t easy.

“I think it’s a win for our residential ratepayers,” he said. “It’s a win for our businesses in terms of job creators here in this state. And it’s a win to make sure we have the generating capacity over the long term to keep the lights on.”

But critics say the legislation places too big a burden on people who generate their own power, and it won't encourage more competition between utilities and alternative energy suppliers.

State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, says his constituents in the Upper Peninsula have very high energy costs.

“We need competition in Michigan,” he said. “I feel very strongly that the states that have choice have the best prices for consumers.”

It also boosts the amount of power to be generated using renewable resources.

This was one of the final acts of the Legislature before wrapping up this year’s session. And Governor Rick Snyder says he’s happy lawmakers got this done.

“Michigan has a defined a platform for us for the next few decades, and it’s a path that I think is very strong and thoughtful,” he said.

Critics say of the policies say they’ll try to revisit some of them in 2017.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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