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Michigan power companies meet renewable energy standards

Feb 16, 2017

Michigan energy is getting greener. 

A state report released Wednesday says all Michigan energy providers met or exceeded a government requirement to supply 10% of energy from renewable sources in 2015. 

The Michigan Public Service Commission wrote the report based on a 2008 law. That law also called for a 12.5% standard by 2019 and a 15% standard by 2021. 

The majority of the energy came from provider investments, while a small part came from banked energy credits bought from consumers with an energy surplus.

Judy Palnau is the media director for the commission. She says while many people understand the environmental benefits of cleaner energy, not many realize the decreased cost.

"The cost has surprised even the most ardent supporter of renewable energy. Even they have been shocked at how much the cost has gone down since 2009," she said, "enough that it is cheaper than the cost of any new fossil fuel generation."

She says low costs have allowed most utility companies to hit the standard in stride, and fully expects the successive goals to be reached as well. 

Other proponents of the report highlight how more renewable energy will benefit the consumer. John Freeman is executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA), a large nonprofit devoted to advocacy for clean energy in the state. He says more renewable sources will add competition to the market and put more control in the hands of consumers. 

"We need more competition in the marketplace. Utilities shouldn't call all the shots regarding energy production," he said. "People have the capacity now to generate their own energy. A farmer can invest in a solar energy system, they can save money in the long run, and now they're in charge of one of the most costly aspects of running a farm or running a business.  

Around $3.3 billion has been invested in renewable energy leading up to 2016, an amount that Freeman says will stay in the state if it continues to work towards better energy practices. 

"It's a great trend because we're creating jobs, stimulating the economy, and helping to clean the air as well."