Power up

Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 am

When environmentalists and alternative energy advocates last pushed the Michigan Legislature to enact renewable energy standards, the best they could do was the passage of legislation mandating that, by the year 2015, 10 percent of the state's power would be generated by solar panels, wind turbines and the like.

That legislation was passed just last year.

On Monday, at press conferences held around the state, House Democrats, clean energy advocates and people in the renewable energy business announced plans for a much more ambitious standard, aiming at 30 percent by 2025.

What's changed? Well, there was something called an election. And a number of people elected to the House campaigned on the promise of making Michigan a greener place, says Dave Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan, a Lansing-based nonprofit.

"One election can make a big difference," Holtz says.

The "Re-Energize Michigan" push will actually be a package of bills, maybe 11 or so in all, addressing issues such as revised codes to make new buildings more energy-efficient and legislation that would facilitate something called "net metering," which allows folks with solar panels, home wind turbines and the like to sell excess power back to the utilities. But the centerpiece is the upgraded renewable energy standard. 

As last year's effort showed, opposition from the state's two big utilities — Consumers Energy and DTE — can be expected. Also expected is tough going in the Republican-controlled state Senate, which Holtz described as the "enemy of thinking people."

But, as he noted, there are more elections in the future. And the opponents of progress should be put on notice that they will be targeted if they continue to stand in the way of programs that aren't just good for the environment, but are also crucial if our state's dismal economic climate is going to be improved.

As noted on the House Democrats' Web site, "the U.S. Department of Energy says Michigan is one of four states that can create more than 30,000 manufacturing jobs in the wind sector alone. According to the 2009 Michigan Green Jobs Report from the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, a sample of more than 350 green-related firms showed job growth of 7.7 percent. In contrast, other Michigan businesses shed jobs at a rate of 5.4 percent."

So consider this a notice to the right-wingers controlling the Senate: Metaphorically speaking, It's time to get on this bio-diesel powered bus that's fast gaining momentum, or risk get running over by it.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]