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.  

Craig and Sharon Goble invested $30,000 in their solar array. They say the proposed changes to Michigan's solar program would make their investment less valuable.
David Cassleman / Interlochen Public Radio

More and more people are putting up solar panels in Michigan. It's getting a lot more affordable to do it. And there's a payback when you get your monthly utility bill.

But a bill in the state Senate could fundamentally change the solar program in Michigan, and it has some people worried. 

How "net metering" works in Michigan

Craig and Sharon Goble’s electricity bill looks different than most people’s.  

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. 

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.

Holland BPW

One of the top Republicans in the state House has introduced bills that would make sweeping changes to Michigan’s energy policies. It comes ahead of Governor Rick Snyder’s address on the issue next week.

The ET Rover natural gas pipeline's planned route in Michigan has changed. You can see the oringal planned route on the left, and the revised plan on the right.
Draft FERC filing / Energy Transfer

The Texas-based pipeline company Energy Transfer announced that they plan to cut through fewer counties in Michigan when building the Rover natural gas pipeline.

The company's new agreement, they say, will eliminate their need to build new pipeline in six Michigan counties.

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

In his State of the State address this week, Governor Snyder said we need a long-term energy policy.

“It needs to be an adaptable policy, because of the lack of federal policy and the challenges of a global marketplace," he said. "We need to focus on important things such as eliminating energy waste, and the conversion from coal to natural gas—an asset of the state of Michigan—and renewables."

A wind turbine in the Garden Wind Farm in the Upper Peninsula.
Garden Wind Farm Project

GARDEN, Mich. - Eleven people who live near the first wind farm in Michigan's Upper Peninsula say the whir of turbines has reduced property values, diminished their sleep and put birds at risk.

They filed a lawsuit last week in federal court against Heritage Sustainable Energy and the U.S. government, seeking to block expansion and require more study on the impacts.

Bureau of Land Management

Residents of northern Michigan got a surprise last summer. They found out some drilling for oil and gas can be done confidentially. That unnerved some people in Emmet County, who now want their local government to do something about it.

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.

Today on Stateside: 

  • A new report from Public Sector Consultants projects Michigan will lose enough energy production for one million people in 2016. We look at what this means for Michigan residents. 

  • Chris Cook, chief restaurant and wine critic at Hour Detroit Magazine joins us to discuss how American eating and cooking went through a drastic change post-World War II. 

  • How much has the American family changed? Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research have been digging into this for a report called The New American Family: All Are Welcome and You Don't Even Have To Get Married. We talk with U of M professor of Sociology, Pamela Smock. 

  • Automakers are on track to sell 16.5 million cars and trucks for 2014. Michelle Krebs of joins us to talk about the future of long-term loans and leases that are being sold to buyers. 

  • More than half of all hospital deaths are caused by sepsis. Dr. Jack Iwashyna, research scientist at the Ann Arbor-VA Healthcare System, and Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, join us to explain what exactly sepsis is and the challenges it poses. 

Earlier this week, when he won his second term, Governor Rick Snyder thanked his family, he thanked his supporters and he gave a shout-out to the Great Lakes.

“I still like to remind my fellow governors, four out of five Great Lakes prefer Michigan,” he joked.

So what do policy experts expect from Snyder in his next term?

James Clift is with the Michigan Environmental Council.

"I think what we’ve got is a confluence of a number of things coming to a head,” he says.

He says energy will be a big issue for Snyder.

“Is there going to be enough power in this region of the country to serve our needs in the upcoming years? Some federal regulations coming into play, with the utilities making some very large decisions about the energy future, and the clean energy legislation plateauing off in 2015.”

Clift is talking about our renewable portfolio standard. It requires Michigan utilities to get 10 percent of their electricity sales from renewable sources by 2015.

Snyder has said he’d like to see that standard raised – as long as it makes business sense.

Will Ann Arbor succeed with its bike sharing program?

Oct 10, 2014
Heather Seyfarth and "Cooper" at the Clean Energy Coalition in Ann Arbor.
Doug Coombe

Bike share programs are not a new concept – there are successful bike share programs in major cities all throughout the world. If you travel around North America, you'll find citywide bike share programs in Chicago, New York, Boston, Austin, Des Moines, Denver, Boulder, D.C., Madison (WI), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia, Columbus, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Baltimore, the Bay Area, Toronto, and Montreal, among others.  

At the end of September the new ArborBike bike share program in downtown Ann Arbor debuted, becoming the first and currently only public bike share program in southeastern Michigan. 

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

We've been working to find an answer to the question, "What's the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?"

It was posed by Justin Cross for our M I Curious project.

One of the first things we discovered was that the company holds all the cards.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A lot of us are curious about the oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan Radio's M I Curious is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Justin Cross asked Michigan Radio this question:

What is the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?  

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. 

Chris Bauer, a project manager for Ballard Marine Construction, points out the crew that supports the diver.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Over the last month, Enbridge has been working to secure their two 20-inch pipelines to the lake bottom, and weather permitting, officials say they should finish their work over the next few days.

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline runs 645 miles from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. At the Straits, the single 30-inch pipeline splits into two 20-inch pipelines.

Enbridge says Line 5 carries natural gas liquids and light crude oils. They say it does not carry the heavy dilbit crude that proved so difficult to clean up in the Kalamazoo River oil spill.

User: Toby Scott / Flickr

A small Michigan company has a big goal: to retrofit thousands of cars a year to run on propane.

Albert Venezio is the Chairman of Icom North America based in New Hudson. According to Venezio, some of the advantages of running a car on propane include:

  • Approximately 50% emission reduction
  • Zero particulate matter
  • 100% U.S. fuel source
  • 30%-50% reduction in fuel cost
  • Extension of service life in vehicle

Member of the public with a “No Fracking” sticker on her clothes as she testifies before a panel of environmental regulators.
Rick Pluta

State environmental regulators will put the finishing touches on new rules regarding “fracking” now that public hearings have wrapped up. They expect to have the new rules adopted by the end of the year, but the state’s rules may not be the final word on the controversial drilling process

“Fracking” is a drilling method that pushes water and chemicals into wells to force out oil and gas deposits.

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

What do the people who run Michigan's towns and cities think about the prospect of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" in or near their communities?

A new report from the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy looks into that question.

In Michigan, only a handful of communities report some type of high-volume fracking operation. It's the controversial process used to extract natural gas by drilling into shale deposits.

The center’s program director, Tom Ivacko, joined us to talk about the results.

*Listen to the interview above.

Ford Motor Company / Flickr

State law forces power companies to get 10% of their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by next year. It’s a target they’re expected to meet.

The state issued a report last year that shows companies could get as much at 30% by 2035. But there’s no law that requires that, yet. It’s something a workgroup will consider as it works this summer to update Michigan’s energy policy.

State Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) will help lead the group.

Last month, in the midst of the polar vortex, Gov. Rick Snyder declared an energy emergency in the state as propane supplies dropped.

The shortage continues as Michiganders who rely on propane  for their heat have to worry about getting propane – and when they do, dealing with major price increases.

What's behind the shortage? And what does it mean for the 9 to 10 percent of Michigan homes that use propane for heat?

Listen to the full interview above. 

Much of the corn grown in the U.S. today is genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It’s been seven years since America hit the accelerator on corn-based ethanol fuels. Homegrown corn became the centerpiece of a push to find an alternative to foreign oil.

President Bush signed this expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2007, promising it would make us “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

But, as is so often the case, something that offers great promise on one hand, takes its toll on the other hand. So the view of corn-based ethanol very much depends upon which side of the fence you’re standing on.

Update: Ice storms knock out power to 294,000 in Michigan

Dec 22, 2013

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Winter has arrived in Michigan with an icy blast, sending freezing rain across a wide section of the Lower Peninsula and knocking out electrical service to 294,000 homes and businesses.

The state's largest utilities say it will be days before most of those blacked out get their power back because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

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.)

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:

“ 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.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new oil pipeline is going underground in Michigan.

Enbridge Energy says this new pipeline will be bigger (36 inches vs. 30 inches) - it will pump more oil to the Marathon refinery in Detroit - and they say the pipeline will be safer. (The map in the slideshow above shows where the new line is going in.)

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University’s dairy farm is helping the university cut down on its electricity bill. It may also someday help small Michigan farms meet their energy needs.

South of the East Lansing campus, MSU maintains about 180 dairy cows. The cows produce more than milk of course. Now, university researchers have something to do with all that waste.

University officials this week cut the ribbon on an anaerobic digester. The digester takes organic waste and creates methane. The methane can be used to create electricity or meet other energy needs.