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Institute Backs Granholm’s Big Green Package

Director says coal plant delay, push for clean energy marks new era for Michigan

February 4, 2009 | By Jim Dulzo
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

State of Michigan
TRAVERSE CITY—The Michigan Land Use Institute has strongly endorsed Governor Jennifer M. Granholm’s plan to rebuild Michigan’s economy by transforming the state into a global center for green energy technology and manufacturing, creating tens of thousands of new jobs in the state.

The Institute also applauded the governor’s decision to delay the permitting of new coal plants in Michigan while the state determines whether they are actually needed and whether there are other “feasible and prudent means” to meet the state’s energy needs.

Both announcements were made during Governor Granholm’s State of the State address, delivered before the Michigan Legislature last night.

(See the video at WKAR.org and go to 34:00 on the timer to hear Governor Granholm’s remarks on coal during her State of the State address.)
Real Player is required. You can download it here

The governor’s directive about coal plants, dated Feb.3, will immediately halt further state action on the four coal plant air emissions permits it is currently considering, and will likely discourage further action by the up to four other companies considering new plants. It could eventually prompt the utilities to either drop their current plans or drastically revamp them so that their project can capture their carbon emissions—something the governor said the state should help to pursue.

The Institute has worked both to advance clean energy policy and stop Michigan’s coal rush along with other members of the Clean Energy Now Coalition, a statewide group of non-profit citizens organizations.

CEN formed early last year to convince the governor that she should freeze all coal plants’ air emissions permitting processes until the state has a plan for managing their CO2 emissions. Coal supplies about 60 percent of the state’s electricity and, as a group worldwide, coal plants produce the largest portion of the manmade greenhouse gases that are changing the planet’s climate.

The coalition maintains—and recent projections by the state’s two largest utilities confirm—that delaying the construction of new coal plants in Michigan is realistic because electricity demand will fall by as much between five and six percent through the middle of the next decade.

Green energy advocates around the state cheered the governor’s announcements about green energy and coal; many said the speech marked a sea change in how the state will deal with its energy economy, moving it from an increasingly outdated, fossil fuel-based model toward renewable energy and energy efficiency policies that are among the nation’s most progressive.

Striking and Welcome
Institute Executive Director Hans Voss said that Governor Granholm’s plan, unveiled at her State of the State address Tuesday evening, was “remarkable both for its bold goals—cutting fossil fuel consumption by almost half and creating tens of thousands of green jobs—and for its exceptionally broad approach to putting green energy to work to rebuild Michigan’s prosperity.”

Mr. Voss said that the scope of the governor’s strategy was both striking and welcome.

“Her plan includes new utility pricing practices that save money by encouraging efficiency and innovation,” he said. “It also has a way for people to finance major home weatherization projects with the money they save on their heating costs.

“Just those two changes will spark a storm of sales, service, and light manufacturing in a state with immense capacity for all three,” he said.

The Institute director added that the plan’s strong incentives for large-scale wind farm development, combined with its greatly expanded opportunity for homeowners and entrepreneurs to make money by installing their own solar or wind power and selling it to their local utility, will spark a heavy manufacturing renaissance in the state.

“Michigan, the nation’s 14th-windiest state, is ripe for a large amount of wind power development,” Mr. Voss said. “And the large-scale turbine companies prefer building their projects close to where they are erected because transportation is so costly. So we could be seeing a lot of new wind turbines of all sizes going up, as well as lots of reopened factories making them.

“That adds up to thousands of good jobs of all sorts—from assembly line work to engineering, from heavy construction to home-scale electrical installation, and from turbine maintenance to ‘smart grid’ operation, ” he said. “And the governor’s plan to create a green construction corps in Michigan, which will train young people in all of these jobs, and many others, will help to keep thousands of our youth in the state.”

Brave and Necessary
Mr. Voss also praised the governor’s decision to look critically at the state’s current coal rush as a brave and necessary move.

“Governor Granholm is going to take a large amount of heat for delaying these plants,” he predicted. “But it is far from clear when and if we’ll ever need another new, fossil-fueled, ‘base load’ power plant in the state.

“The governor wants us to hit the pause button on coal, take a step back, and ask whether or not, all things considered, there is a better way to rebuild Michigan’s economy than invest in coal plants, which have become a very risky investment and which do not produce very many new jobs.

“The plan she announced last night is a better way,” Mr. Voss concluded. “It is sound, smart, bold, and will rebuild the state’s prosperity by immediately creating thousands of new jobs and attracting new companies to Michigan for the long run. We will do everything we can to help her green economic vision—certainly among the nation’s most advanced—become a reality for Michigan workers and their families.”

Jim Dulzo is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s managing editor, and coordinates the organization’s clean energy and coal program. Reach him at jimdulzo@mlui.org. The Institute’s coverage of Michigan’s energy issues is archived here.

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