Holland City Council adopted guidelines on Wednesday night to handle the city’s long-term energy needs.
The comprehensive plan covers a wide variety of energy issues facing the city over the next 40 years.
Arguably the biggest energy issue long-term is whether the city needs to expand capacity at its coal plant, or maybe modify it to burn natural gas.
A group of residents gathered before the meeting at a park near city hall to urge city leaders to add more renewable energy sources and conservation mandates as the plan is implemented.
Monica Hallacy lives in Holland and she’s an organizer with the Sierra Club.
“What we’re seeing a lot of in the meetings and in these plans is a turn possibly towards natural gas which is a little bit cleaner when it burns. Not a whole lot. And it has a whole slew of risks that we’re very, very concerned about,” Hallacy said.
Hallacy says she’s happy to see Holland consider its energy needs for the future. But she wants to see a plan that relies more on renewable energy sources, and that uses less energy overall.
Holland is asking the state's Department of Environmental Quality to extend an air quality permit that would give the city the option to expand its coal plant.
The city had to fight former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration in court to attain the permit. A MDEQ spokesman said a decision on the permit is expected by mid-August.
Arn Boezaart heads the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon. The center supports alternative energy businesses and research.
“I’m as concerned as everybody else is about their monthly utility rates, but when it comes to energy, status quo is not an option,” Boezaart said.
Boezaart says the energy supply in the next 50 years just won't be the same as it was the last 100 years. It's important that municipal utilities commit to such long term strategies, Boezaart said.