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Michigan has a choice: Make small cuts to energy use or build new power plants

Feb 27, 2017

The Next Idea

Michiganders might be using electricity the wrong way. A new report indicates Michigan might be able to meet projected energy shortfalls if residents change how they use power. That would save having to build new, expensive power plants.

Liesl Clark is president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, a business trade association representing companies in the state’s advanced energy sector. Clark said Michigan needs to change its energy habits in order to save money in the long run.

"The Michigan Public Service Commission takes a close look at what we refer to as 'capacity' – what energy is available out there," Clark said. "However, in the Lower Peninsula, we are certainly going through an energy transition and many people are excited about this energy transition as we are taking older, coal-fired plants offline basically because they are uneconomical to run. So as we're taking those plants offline, one of the things that we're looking at for the future is, what does our diverse energy portfolio mix look like?"

According to Clark, if the state reduces its peak-hours energy usage by 1%, Michigan could save as much as $900 million.  Citizens could make the decision to reduce their energy usage themselves, but there are also efforts by energy companies in the works to install smart meters, which could help people accomplish that.

Listen to the full interview above to hear why "peaker plants," power plants built to run only during high-demand energy hours, aren't the solution. You'll also learn why turning off your air conditioner for just 5 or 10 minutes during the summer could make a big difference if everyone got on board. 

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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