In February, the state Public Service Commission reported that Michigan had seen more than $1.8 billion in economic investment because of the 2008 law mandating the development of solar, wind, biomass or hydropower. The agency also said the cost of renewable energy continues to decline and is cheaper than bringing new coal-fired plants online.
Coal mostly imported from Wyoming accounts for more than half of the state’s net electricity generation.
Consumers Energy and DTE opposed the ballot measure and are declining to say if they will get behind a higher renewable energy standard at this point. While agreeing that technology is improved, Consumers Energy says comparing wind to coal-burning costs is apples to oranges because wind is by its intermittent nature less reliable.
“It is producing power between 30 to 40 percent of the time compared to coal, natural gas and nuclear that are 90 percent plus,” spokesman Dan Bishop said.
The Jackson-based utility adds that the main reason it can drop the surcharge from 52 cents to nothing is because it is speeding up construction of a wind farm in the Thumb region to qualify for a 10-year, $100 million federal tax credit. If not for the subsidy, the cost of renewable energy would not drop as much, according to the company.
“That’s a result of a government action,” Bishop said.
Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs, a coalition that supports higher renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements, counters that new natural gas, pipeline and other fossil fuel projects get more generous tax benefits not available to wind projects.
Another factor in eliminating or cutting the fees is better wind turbine technology. Consumers Energy’s Cross Winds Energy Park in Tuscola County is expected to have a higher capacity factor than initially planned, essentially allowing the utility to buy fewer turbines and produce the same amount of power.