Street Talk: The trickle-down effect

Going mobile.
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Approximately one of every three bottles of alcohol shipped into Michigan from January through March of 2019 was done so illegally, according to data compiled by the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association (MB&WWA).

In total, 1,535,616 bottles of alcohol were shipped into Michigan during the first three quarters of 2019. It’s estimated nearly 484,101 bottles of wine were illegally shipped into the state during the same period.

“For years, we’ve heard anecdotal evidence that cases upon cases of wine were illegally shipped into Michigan every month, but we had no idea it was this rampant,” said Spencer Nevins, president of the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association. “Every time an unlicensed, out-of-state retailer illegally ships alcohol into Michigan, they rob our state of much-needed tax revenue and thumb their nose at the mom and pop retailers playing by the rules and supporting our local communities.”

In 2018, the MB&WWA began compiling data on illegal wine shipments flowing into Michigan. Data from two quarters of that year showed more than 1 million bottles of alcohol were shipped into Michigan in just six months and at least 300,000 of those bottles were shipped illegally by out-of-state retailers.

“As we review the data each year it is becoming abundantly clear that out-of-state retailers have no regard for Michigan law and will continue breaking the rules until they’re held accountable,” Nevins said. “We encourage the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to continue investigating each and every complaint and to crack down on these bad actors.”

The data were compiled using reports from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and excise tax data from the state of Michigan.

Energy power

Consumers Energy is hosting a series of virtual public open houses to gather suggestions for its Clean Energy Plan, which would eliminate coal use and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The open houses cover topics such as wind and solar power, protecting the environment, building a smarter power grid and what customers can do to help.

“We are determined to create the best Clean Energy Plan for Michigan — and we can’t do it alone,” said Jessica Woycehoski, a senior engineer in Electric Supply Planning at Consumers Energy. “We need to understand what’s most important to our customers and key stakeholders and how they see the state’s energy future taking shape in the next 20 years.”

Interested individuals can visit MICleanEnergy.com for links to join the events, which are each scheduled to last 45 minutes. The schedule includes:

  • 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15: Road to Renewable Energy
  • 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13: Protecting Our Planet
  • 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10: A Smarter Energy Future

Woycehoski said public input will help inform Consumers Energy’s suggested Clean Energy Plan updates to the Michigan Public Service Commission in June 2021.

Consumers plans to retire the Karn 1 and 2 coal-fired generating units in 2023. Two additional remaining coal-fired units, Campbell 1 and 2, would retire at the end of their design lives in 2031, along with Karn 3 and 4, which run on natural gas and fuel oil and generally are used to meet peak demand.

A third coal-fired unit, Campbell 3, the youngest unit in the fleet, would be retired by 2040. Ending coal use by 2040 provides an opportunity to leverage demand-side options and transform the supply portfolio toward renewable energy.

Consumers also plans to add 550 megawatts of wind energy and is proposing more than 6,000 megawatts of solar energy with a ramp-up throughout the 2020s to prepare for additional plant retirements and the expiration of power purchase agreements. The additional solar capacity will be a mix of owned and purchased, she said.

The plan forecasts renewable energy capacity levels of 42% by 2030 and 56% by 2040.

Energy waste reduction, battery storage and grid modernization tools also will play a role in serving customers’ energy and capacity needs, she said.

Checkered flag

Grand Rapids saw its first autonomous vehicles hit the streets in 2019. Now the collaboration with May Mobility and its electric vehicle pilot is being nationally recognized for innovation.

The collaboration, dubbed the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative, earned the Outstanding Achievement in Local Government Innovation award from the Alliance for Innovation. The city’s Mobile GR-Parking Services team was honored during AFI’s annual Transforming Local Government conference, which was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four electric autonomous vehicles with safety attendants operated on the existing DASH West circulator route in downtown Grand Rapids for eight months before service halted in March due to COVID-19. A wheelchair-accessible shuttle also was available by request. The autonomous vehicles are scheduled to run again in September with new safety measures.

The autonomous vehicle route connects the West Side business district and low-cost parking with downtown. Since its launch in July 2019, AVGR has provided more than 62,000 rides — or 8,000 per month. It offers 20 passenger stops along the DASH West route, which provides connectivity to 10 public parking facilities.

Mobile GR/Parking Manager Josh Naramore said AVGR is another great example of Grand Rapids’ proven tradition of public-private collaboration to advance the community.

“The challenges of pollution, congestion and transportation equity are persistent across the country, and our team has made the choice to take the lead in identifying and testing solutions,” Naramore said. “Creating the space and opportunities to test innovative solutions is foundational to progress.”

AVGR is a $650,000 public-private partnership funded one-third by public entities and two-thirds by private organizations. Other partners are Consumers Energy, Faurecia, Gentex, PlanetM/Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Rockford Construction, Seamless, Start Garden and Steelcase.

AFI received more than 100 nominations for the Innovation Awards. AVGR was among 11 projects selected for demonstrating positive community and organizational impact, quantum leaps in creativity and tangible results toward building antifragile communities.

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