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Fall Energy Policy Forecast

Implementing 2016's landmark energy law continues to be a top priority in Lansing.

Legislative calendars and priorities often shift as new issues unfold, but here’s a quick overview of what we’re expecting legislators and regulators to focus on during the remainder of the 2017 session.

Integrated Resource Plans

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has begun the regulatory process to define and formalize requirements for Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs). These plans will enable energy providers to “propose new electricity generation sources” based on the most cost-efficient resources.

Mandated under last year’s energy law, IRPs will allow local energy providers to “assess the full range of energy generation and savings options, including renewable energy and energy efficiency programs,” in order to maximize our state’s energy resources to meet our capacity needs. The MPSC is accepting comments from the public through October 6, and the deadline for replies to comments is October 20.

Demonstrating Capacity

As part of the continued implementation of last year’s energy law, all energy providers—local ones as well as out-of-state companies—must demonstrate to the MPSC that they are able to provide the level of capacity needed to serve their Michigan customers.

The MPSC has been working with the Midcontinent Independent Service Operator (MISO), which oversees the electrical transmission networks across much of the Midwest and parts of the South, to determine a uniform methodology for energy providers to prove they can meet their customers’ capacity needs.

Once the MPSC and MISO have a finalized methodology, the MPSC will require energy companies to meet a certain capacity demonstration requirement. What does this requirement mean? All Michigan homes and businesses will have the energy they need, regardless of which energy company supplies it.

On Friday, September 15, the MSPC announced its ruling requiring all state electric providers to demonstrate the ability to guarantee capacity for their customers for at least four years. Beginning in 2022, out-of-state energy providers will also be required to maintain local generating capacity to ensure reliability for Michigan consumers. The MPSC’s ruling is a vital step forward—confirming the intent of the 2016 energy law—but it appears some legislators, including Representative Gary Glenn, may seek to challenge the MPSC’s ruling.

New Energy Legislation on the Horizon?

Earlier this spring, State Representative Triston Cole (R-105) introduced legislation in the Michigan House designed to encourage the siting of new transmission lines. This is one of 25 bills or resolutions currently before the committee. As the committee continues its work this fall, AMP will remain focused on making sure any new legislation aligns with the 2016 law and its IRP process. It’s too soon now to tell how far these bills will go, but we’ll be keeping an eye on it and updating you on developments.

As lawmakers and regulators continue to implement Michigan’s energy law, we want to know if you have any questions about the policies or processes involved. Email us your thoughts, questions, or concerns at info@allianceformichiganpower.com.

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Local Energy + Michigan Schools = A Winning Combination

School is back in session, reminding us how strong local energy providers and strong local schools add up to much more than we often realize.

Some of Our Local Schools’ Strongest Supporters

Michigan’s energy providers make immense contributions to schools in communities across the state—and our energy policies should reflect the importance of those contributions. Investments made by our state’s two largest local energy providers—Consumers Energy and DTE Energy—help elevate education efforts statewide, at all levels, from pre-K through college.

Reliable Energy Is Critical to Effective Education

A large part of last year’s legislative debate about the future of Michigan energy policy focused on the need to keep energy reliable as many of our coal-fired generation plants across the Midwest begin to close. That’s one of the reasons AMP fought for provisions in the new energy law that would require out-of-state energy companies to prove they can maintain the capacity needed to serve their Michigan customers.

Reliable energy is as important for Michigan schools as it is for homes, businesses, hospitals, and other critical services. Michigan’s classrooms and students of all ages deserve reliable energy, which is why local energy providers work around the clock to ensure they have it. Lawmakers and regulators overseeing the continued implementation of the 2016 energy law must recognize that cost-savings are only one piece of the picture, and if we can’t keep energy reliable students will pay the price along with everyone else.

Supporting Energy Efficiency

Since 2009, local energy providers have helped implement energy efficiency programs in 335 local school districts. These efforts have generated more than $13 million in rebates and more than $160 million in lifetime energy savings for Michigan schools. That’s an average savings of more than half a million dollars for each district!

Local providers like DTE Energy also offer online resources to help school districts reduce their energy expenses. These comprehensive tips include how to cut energy waste in everything from drinking fountains, vending machines, and lighting to HVAC use, steam traps, and kitchen appliances.

Those programs don’t just help schools save energy; they also help young people become more energy-conscious at an early age, which benefits families at home, too. The Think! Energy program, for instance, teaches kids about energy efficiency and encourages them to apply what they’ve learned at home.

Here are just a few examples of how local energy providers support energy-efficiency efforts at schools across the state:

  • Thanks to a $5 million bond approved by local voters, Consumers Energy is helping Alma Public Schools improve reliability by installing new transformers and power poles.
  • DTE Energy is helping revamp Detroit's Randolph Technical High School, overseeing a massive $2.4 million renovation of the once-neglected institution “largely paid for by cash and in-kind donations from DTE, other Detroit companies and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.”
  • Gaylord Community Schools is “on track to be the first district in Michigan to complete a fluorescent lighting to light-emitting diode (LED) switchover through a Consumers Energy pilot program.”

Choosing Michigan Energy Means Choosing Michigan Schools

In 2015, local energy providers paid about $252 million in property taxes “specifically earmarked for education,” which is enough to support 4,000 Michigan teachers. Over the next decade, “experts project that number to swell to an additional $1.2 billion, generating enough to support 20,000 teachers” as local energy providers continue to invest in our state’s schools.

Additionally, local energy providers often sponsor community events that benefit local schools and neighborhoods, like the ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Day, which helps support beautification and clean-up efforts.

Some Michigan legislators don’t realize that choosing Michigan energy also means choosing Michigan schools, but it’s just another example of how our local energy providers do a lot more for Michigan than providing electricity—they are invested in our state in ways that out-of-state energy providers simply never will be.

Have you seen the benefits local energy providers bring to schools in your area? Let us know.

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FACT FRIDAY: Busting the Top 4 Wind Energy Myths

Wind power has been growing in Michigan for years. Today, more than 20 wind farms operate across the state. Nationally, Michigan ranks in the top 15 states in terms of wind potential.

Wind farms strengthen our state’s energy independence, but the reaction to these large-scale wind projects is often mixed.

Those who are skeptical about wind energy have often been misled by opponents that are more concerned with protecting the status quo than doing what’s best for Michigan.

Myth: Noisy Neighbors

One of the most persistent myths about wind turbines is how much noise they make.

Fact: Quieter than you Think

In reality, most wind turbines are located at least 300 meters or more from residences. At that distance, the noise from a wind turbine only reaches 43 decibels. That’s roughly the same amount of noise most refrigerators make when they are running, and less than the average air conditioner.

Myth: Bird Killers

Another popular myth is that wind turbines decimate local bird populations.

Fact: Cat's Out of the Bag

This myth is, well, for the birds. While it is true accidents can happen when our aviary friends cross paths with a turbine, the number is exponentially lower compared to other fatalities! In fact a 2014 study found that 6.8 million bird fatalities each year occur from collisions with cell and radio towers, and 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds fatalities are from house cats, while aviary deaths caused by wind turbine number only in the thousands.

Myth: Waste of Land

Some people think wind turbines displace farms and end up damaging the land around them.

Fact: Room to Spare

It’s true that wind farms require a lot of space because turbines must be spread out in order to work effectively. However, the actual percentage of land that is disturbed to construct a turbine is minimal, and the majority of the land around them once construction is finished can continue to be used for many productive activities—from raising livestock and agriculture to hiking trails and highway infrastructure. Farmland is also not damaged when wind turbines are installed. In fact, some research even indicates wind turbines improve agricultural productivity for farms that have them. In addition, a survey by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that large-scale wind facilities in the United States use “between 30 and 141 acres per megawatt of power output capacity.” That’s a lot of power output relative to the amount of space a turbine fully occupies.

Myth: Expensive and Unreliable

Some people believe the myth that wind energy is expensive and an unreliable source of power.

Fact: Costs are Falling as Reliability Rises

From 2011 – 2016, the costs of wind-generated electricity dropped by 66 percent. Advancements in technology are also helping spur the development of more efficient, more powerful turbines that produce more energy in the same amount of space. Just as important, Michigan has long pursued an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, and having wind power combined with a wide array of other energy sources only increases our capability to ensure we are generating power in the most cost-effective, reliable, sustainable way at all times. Facts are important when it comes to finding out what’s true and what is just a bunch of hot air! Wind turbines and wind energy are here to stay in Michigan and are helping us achieve a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

Facts are important when it comes to finding out what’s true and what is just a bunch of hot air! Wind turbines and wind energy are here to stay in Michigan and are helping us achieve a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

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A Cleaner Energy Future: Natural Gas and the NEXUS Pipeline

Our future energy generation will include a range of fuel sources like solar, wind, nuclear, and, increasingly, natural gas. AMP has already touched on the many ways natural gas and the NEXUS pipeline will positively impact Michigan. Today, we’re drilling down to the safety and environmental benefits of this natural resource.

A Shift from the Past

Local Michigan energy companies have made significant strides in moving toward a 21st Century energy mix. We are finding innovative ways to replace the energy capacity Michigan and the rest of the Midwest are losing as old coal-fired plants retire. Increasingly, local energy providers are investing not only in wind and solar projects but also in natural gas to generate the electricity we need as a state.

A New Energy Source for a Cleaner Energy Mix

How much cleaner is natural gas than coal-generated electricity? Here are some natural gas facts that highlight the benefits:

  • Natural gas releases approximately 50 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than coal and 20 – 30 percent less than oil.
  • Compared with other fossil fuels, natural gas results in “negligible amounts” of other emissions, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury.
  • Technologies used to capture and store CO2 from coal-fired plants are being adapted to help reduce emissions from natural gas-powered plants even further.

Natural gas is also highly efficient as an energy source. “About 90 percent of the natural gas produced is delivered to customers as useful energy,” compared to roughly “30 percent of the energy converted to electricity” by conventional energy generation methods.

Natural gas has significant environmental advantages contributing to better air quality and protecting public health. In fact, as of last year, “America is at a 27-year low in its carbon emissions almost solely because natural gas has been replacing coal.”

Consider how much natural gas has offset coal as part of our energy mix over the past eight years. In 2009, natural gas was only eight percent of our state’s energy mix—today that figure has climbed to 18 percent. That’s more than a 100 percent increase, representing nearly one-fifth of our energy mix in 2017.

Michigan’s unique geography makes natural gas particularly feasible as an energy source to replace coal. And Michigan’s local energy providers are already moving forward with natural gas infrastructure investments that will enable us to maximize this important resource to keep energy reliable and affordable in Michigan.

Do you have questions about the benefits of natural gas for Michigan? Email us at info@allianceformichiganpower.com.

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6 Tips to (Efficiently) Survive Summer Temp Spikes

Summer temperature spikes can put a strain on our electric grid and on your energy budget. Try our tips and tricks for managing summer temps and becoming an energy efficient all-star!

  • Invest in a programmable thermostat or use your regular one wisely.

    A programmable thermostat can save you an estimated 10% a year by adjusting the temperature for you so you’re not using the A/C as much when you’re not at home while keeping a more constant temperature all day, which is more efficient than constantly adjusting up and down. A general guideline is to keep your thermostat set to 78 degrees in the summer when you are home and raise it 5 to 10 degrees when you’re away. “Each degree you raise the thermostat can save up to 3-5% on cooling costs.” If you have a regular thermostat, try setting it a few degrees warmer than you normally would.

  • Take advantage of your ceiling fans to lower the temperature and keep air circulating throughout your home.

    Using your ceiling fans to supplement your A/C during the summer can lower your home’s temperature by an average of four degrees. That will also help prevent your A/C from kicking on every 30 minutes just to stay cool and let’s air circulate, preventing it from becoming muggy or stagnant.

  • Make energy efficiency fun for the whole family.

    The family that saves together stays together! Get your kids involved in the action and help them learn energy efficiency tips they can use now and in the future. The Michigan Agency for Energy has some great tips on helping kids learn to be energy efficient, including turning off lights and electronics, unplugging devices and appliances when they’re not in use, using water wisely, and more.

  • Use shades or film on windows.

    While Michigan’s summer nights can still get fairly cool, the days can be uncomfortably hot, and glass windows magnify the heat. Have the shades open in the morning when temps are cool to help warm the house naturally, but don’t forget to close them or use films on windows to filter the direct sunlight and prevent the temperature from rising too much. “Pay particular attention to west-facing and south-facing windows, where more sunlight enters” and can cause temps to climb more quickly.

  • Go natural when you can.

    Another good tip to cut energy use in the summer is to take advantage of natural daylight. Turn your home or office lights off during the day when rooms are naturally lit by the sun. Also, when the temperature cools in the evenings, consider turning off the A/C and opening your windows.

  • Keep your HVAC system finely tuned and maintained — and use it smartly.

    Change HVAC filters more often during the summer months. Check your air filter monthly, especially during the summer, and if it looks dirty, change it. “A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool, wasting energy.” Also, have a professional check out your system periodically to keep it well-tuned. Another good HVAC tip is to shut off vents in unoccupied rooms to save 5-10% on your cooling costs.

Looking for more tips to help you beat the Michigan heat while saving energy? Try these resources:

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