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Inside the Michigan Capitol looking up at the dome.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan legislators are turning their attention from away lawmaking to campaigning.

State lawmakers have a couple days on their calendar next month, but for the most part, Michigan legislators will be busy campaigning.

But as state lawmakers leave Lansing, there’s still more to do on the legislative agenda.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says it’s a common problem nearing the end of a legislative term. State lawmakers leave to campaign for re-election and leave thousands of bills waiting for action.

wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

General Motors has committed to using electricity solely from wind, solar or biogas for all of its 350 operations in 59 countries around the world -- within the next 34 years.

CEO Mary Barra says it "helps us better serve society by reducing environmental impact." 

The automaker says it used about 9 terawatt hours of electricity in 2015 to build its vehicles and power its offices, technical centers and warehouses globally.  A terawatt equals a trillion watts.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Republican-led Michigan Legislature returns for voting this week after a three-month summer break, with plans for an abbreviated calendar before the crucial November election determines which party controls the House.

  Both chambers will have three weeks in session before the election, or nine days.

  There could be a lot on the docket, but lawmakers may leave until the post-election "lame duck" period final resolution of high-priority items such as energy and criminal justice legislation.

We Energies

Michigan is asking its electric grid – known as MISO – to study ways to make electricity more reliable in the U.P.

MISO manages electric transmission in 15 U.S. states, including Michigan, and the Canadian province of Manitoba.  

State energy officials have asked MISO to study the benefit of connecting the U.P. to Ontario's grid, and improving the U.P.'s  connections to the Lower Peninsula. 

Judy Palnau, spokeswoman for the Michigan Public Service Commission, says that could improve reliability and reduce costs.

The hidden costs of pollution

Feb 25, 2016
markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

We often hear about the economic costs of environmental regulation on the energy industry.

But there’s a flip side to that equation — the price society pays for pollution.  One scientist has added up those costs. And she found they’re going down.

Christoper Sessums / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A recent ruling could mean lower rates and refunds for Michigan energy customers.

The initial decision from a federal administrative judge says companies that own transmission lines in several states are overcharging customers.

In Michigan, that could mean customers will see total savings of about $40 million a year, according to an estimate from the group Michigan Citizens Against Rate Excess (CARE).

“Everybody’s going to benefit,” said attorney Robert Strong, who represents industrial customers in Michigan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are expected to take up a major overhaul of Michigan’s energy policy as they return from their November break.  

The House and Senate are debating bills to change the state’s 10 percent renewable energy requirement on electric utilities. The bills’ sponsors insist they are just trying to make Michigan’s energy generation market competitive and fair by removing preferential treatment for particular sources of energy.    

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

With a contentious road funding deal finally done, state legislators have some big issues to tackle when they come back from vacation, such as modifying Michigan's energy laws.  

Representatives Gary Glenn and Jeff Irwin
Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network

A bipartisan package of bills is being considered by the Michigan Legislature that would subsidize homes, businesses, and churches that generate their own electricity using solar power or other methods of home-grown generation.

The big power-generating companies aren’t happy. They say other ratepayers would end up paying for part of the cost of that renewable energy production.

Representatives Gary Glenn, R-Midland, and Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, are two of the co-sponsors of the package along with Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, and Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan.

Khimich Alex / Wikimedia Commons

The Home Builders Association of Michigan wants to remove Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) from the state's residential building code.

AFCIs use a computer chip to detect potentially dangerous arc faults in a home's wiring system. If one is detected, the AFCI shuts down power before an electrical fire can start.

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

DTE Energy is moving forward with a solar power project near Ann Arbor.

Ryan Stanton of The Ann Arbor News reports the project will be visible to motorists traveling the highway. 

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

The fight is on over how to make sure Michigan's electric grid remains reliable.

The state's two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, will close nine coal-burning electric power plants by next April to comply with regulations on mercury emissions.

Governor Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder for Michigan / Facebook Page

 

Governor Rick Snyder says one of his long-term ambitions is to improve Michigan’s access to electricity by extending the power grid to connect the upper and lower peninsulas.

The Upper Peninsula has just one major power plant, which is operating under a special deal struck with the state. The rest of the UP’s electricity has to come through Wisconsin.

Gov. Snyder presented his goals for energy policy in Michigan Friday at an electrician training facility in Warren.
Jake Neher / MPRN

Gov. Snyder's goal of boosting renewable energy to between 30% and 40% in the next decade includes increased energy efficiency to get to those numbers. The governor says increased efficiency should play a central role in Michigan’s energy future.

Former BWL GM, Peter Lark.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Lansing Board of Water & Light fired its general manager yesterday. The commission voted five-to-three to terminate J. Peter Lark's contract. Lark took a barrage of criticism because of BWL's response to a huge ice storm just before Christmas 2013.

The coal-burning Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, Michigan is being kept afloat by ratepayers in the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin.
WE Energies

The state of Michigan, several energy providers, and a mine operator have all agreed in principle on a plan that could put a stop to costly rate payments for people in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Utility bills in the Upper Peninsula were expected to jump by 30%. That's in a region where annual wages are much lower than the national average.

user: adamshoop / Flicker

The cost of electricity could jump dramatically next month in the Upper Peninsula.

Residents there might have to start paying to keep a coal plant open that isn't entirely needed anymore. The increase will be a harsh blow to a region that struggles economically.

Brimley is a little town at the end of the road on Lake Superior’s south shore. There’s a bar, a casino and a couple motels. Brimley State Park draws campers here in the summer and into Ron Holden’s IGA grocery store.

"Basically the six weeks of summer pay for the rest of the year’s bills, " he says. On the wall of the IGA are deer heads, a black bear rug, and a flag that says, ‘American by choice, Yooper by da grace of God.’

But being a Yooper might cost more starting December 1. Holden expects his store’s electric bill will be $700 a month higher and he has no idea where he’ll get that money.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The average Lansing Board of Water & Light electric and water customer can expect to see their bills increase, if proposed rate hikes go through.

The utility board will decide next week whether to approve the changes. 

“I don’t imagine any customers are looking forward to rate increase,” admits J. Peter Lark, BWL’s General Manager, “but I think it’s essential.”

Work being done on Orchard Lake Rd where a power pole fell.
DTE Energy

Three days after severe thunderstorms knocked out service to 462,000 customers, utility companies are reporting that tens of thousands of Michigan homes and businesses are still without power. More from the Associated Press: 

Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. says 89,000 of its customers were without power late Monday morning, down from 375,000 hit by Friday's storms. Some schools that lost power were closed Monday. DTE says full restoration probably will take until Tuesday or Wednesday. Wayne County has 53,000 outages and Oakland County has 19,000. Crews from Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and Tennessee are helping. Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp.'s Consumers Energy unit says about 580 customers were without power Monday morning, down from more than 87,000 affected.

DTE said the storms were among "the most damaging in the companies' history."  

Wind gusts of more than 75 miles per hour caused more than 2,000 downed power lines across DTE’s Southeast Michigan service area. 

Strong storms battered parts of  Michigan Friday.  

On the southeast side of the state, 385,000 DTE Energy customers lost electric service last night; about 365,000 customers remain without power.  

Wind gusts of more than 75 miles per hour caused more than 2,000 downed power lines across DTE’s service area. The utility is bringing in crews from Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania to repair the damage.

Consumers Energy says about 55,000 of their customers are waiting for power restoration. Spokeswoman Debra Dodd says Kalamazoo was particularly hard hit.

Chrystal Weesner / Pinterest

A piece of Jackson’s art history, which narrowly avoided the wrecking ball, may soon have new life.

The 28' x 9' glass mural depicting the history of electric power hung in Consumers Energy’s old Jackson headquarters for more than four decades.   

Preservationists were able to save it from the wrecking ball that brought the building down last year. The mural was disassembled and has been in storage ever since.

The plan now is to reconstruct the glass mural, replace its internal lighting system, and build a new outdoor display to house the mural.

The mural would be placed on the grounds of a new city park being built on the site of the old Consumers Energy headquarters.

“We hope to be able to have the new mural in place by….this time next year,” says Grant Bauman, whose part of the team working on the project.

He says the glass mural will add to the mix of public art in downtown Jackson.

This month, the project received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Organizers still need to raise about $200,000 for the glass mural project.

A Consumers Energy spokesman says the company has contributed to the preservation of the mural in the past, but has not committed to donating to the current project.

Back during the Great Depression, some radicals were strongly against helping starving people at all. They believed that when only their condition was so bad and so hopeless and they couldn’t stand it anymore, they would finally revolt and bring about a new society.

That never happened, of course, in part because the New Deal kept people alive and gave them hope in the future. For a long time, I thought the idea that you could get people to do the right thing only by making them suffer terribly was heartless.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy is suspending plans to start building a $700 million power plant in Genesee County.

The utility announced today it will instead buy an existing Jackson County power plant for $155 million.

“You know, frankly, we can look out our windows at our headquarters at Consumers Energy, look east, and see the steam when that plant is operating, which is quite often,” says Dan Bishop, a Consumers spokesman.

The Jackson County power plant has been generating electricity for a decade. As a merchant power plant, it sold electricity on the wholesale market.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan could deregulate the electricity market, allowing people to choose where they buy electricity.

In downtown Frankenmuth there are two very popular restaurants: the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn and right across the street, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth. Both are famous for their chicken dinners. And the owners are cousins -- both of them are Zehnders.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It will be Saturday at least before electricity is restored to all the Michigan homes and businesses that lost power in Sunday’s ice storm.

The storm knocked out power to almost a half million Michiganders.  About 300,000 are still waiting for their electricity to be turned back on. 

Brian Wheeler is a Consumers Energy spokesman.  He says about a third of the nearly 200,000 Consumers Energy customers without electricity are in Flint and Genesee County

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Gratiot County Wind Farm has 133 wind turbines scattered over more than 30,000 acres. It's the largest wind farm in Michigan. Each 1.6 megawatt wind turbine can generate enough power for 350 homes.

And this is what it sounds like when you stand directly beneath a wind turbine that stretches more than 450 feet into the sky with the wind blowing between 10 to 15 mph.

(Listen below - You can hear the turbine slow down - I think it's neat, but I'm a nerd.)

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials have submitted the latest in a series of reports that Gov. Rick Snyder says will help Michigan make decisions about future energy policies.

The "Additional Areas" report deals with reliability of electricity, rates and prices, and natural gas infrastructure. Among the material is a section on the role of states versus the role of regional transmission operators or independent system operators for reliability.

Another section covers the linkage between natural gas prices and electricity prices.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Public Service Commission has submitted a report on renewable energy to Governor Snyder. That report indicates renewable energy is getting cheaper and more varied, ranging from wind and solar to biomass and ground source heat pumps.

But the surprising point in the report was this statement:

“...it is theoretically technically feasible for Michigan to meet increased Renewable Portfolio Standards of as much as 30% from resources located in the state.”

Bruce Power / Ontario Power Generation

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan are asking Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene in a Canadian plan to store nuclear waste underground near Lake Huron.

Ontario Power Generation proposes a radioactive waste disposal facility at the Bruce nuclear power site in the city of Kincardine. If approved, it would house more than 200,000 cubic feet of waste about a mile from the lake.

In a letter Monday to Kerry, the Democratic senators say they're concerned how storing so much radioactive material that close to the lake would affect the environment and industries such as fishing and tourism.

They ask Kerry to urge the Canadian government to reconsider its plans.

The company says the underground rock formations would keep the waste safe for thousands of years.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - More wind and solar energy users in Michigan are getting billing credit for excess power they generate.

State regulators issued a report last week showing utility customers with their own windmills and solar panels onsite increased the net metering program's production size by 55% from 2011 to 2012.

There also were more than 300 additional residential or business customers taking part in the program last year than the year before.

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