Target of 30 percent is ‘feasible’ for state’s renewable energy minimum


Whether or not Michigan can really increase its renewable energy minimum to 30 percent of all electricity delivered by the public utilities is one question. Whether or not that is a good idea is yet another question, and both are at the core of a new report just submitted to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The first of four reports due to Snyder in November was submitted last week by the Michigan Public Service Commission and Michigan Energy Office in response to the governor’s Special Message on Energy and the Environment made a year ago. Snyder had laid out his vision for a “no regrets” energy policy built on three pillars: excellent reliability, affordable price and a protected environment.

The first report delivered by MPSC Chairman John D. Quackenbush and Steve Bakkal, director of the Michigan Energy Office, focused on the state’s renewable energy resources and lays out various scenarios for the governor and Michigan Legislature to consider as they discuss next steps for Michigan’s energy future.

Michigan law today requires a 10 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2015 — 10 percent of electricity must be from renewable sources such as wind, water, solar or biomass.

The report spells out scenarios where the Michigan minimum renewable energy total is 15 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2035, and it states that those “are achievable.”

Bakkal and Quackenbush said they traveled the state in preparing the reports and heard from more people on the topic of renewable energy than any other energy-related topic. They said the report issued Nov. 4 “thoroughly examines factual information on renewable energy.”

The 115-page report notes:

  • It is theoretically technically feasible for Michigan to meet increased Renewable Portfolio Standards of as much as 30 percent, from resources located in the state.
  • Wind generation technology improvements have resulted in a decline in wind generation prices from more than $100 per megawatt-hour in 2009 to between $50 and $60 per MWh now.
  • Wind-generated power now on the grid has not contributed to any system-wide reliability problems, according to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the regional transmission operator for most of Michigan.
  • The first report also includes comments made during the public comment period after the renewable energy draft report was issued on Sept. 20.
  • The entire information-gathering process started in February, and more than 1,000 comments from the public were submitted in response to the renewable energy draft report. Quackenbush and Bakkal said they subsequently made several “significant” revisions that are reflected in the first of the final reports.

New material added to the renewable energy final report includes:

  • RPS eligibility for biomass, ground source heat pumps and solar thermal.
  • More background on wind-energy pricing, referencing reports received.
  • A description of California’s energy storage requirements.
  • More background on Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s wind capacity credits.
  • Independent Market Monitor’s recommendation to change the wind capacity credit calculation.
  • An update to the Energy Information Administration’s Henry Hub natural gas spot price graph to reflect the most recent data.
  • An added section that describes energy planning and provides background on the history of energy planning in Michigan.
  • An update to the surcharge assumptions used to calculate the renewable energy that could be obtained under various RPS standards.
  • An additional incremental renewable energy scenario based on frozen 2012 renewable energy surcharge levels.

The final report is available on the website, along with the other draft reports that have been issued on electric choice, energy efficiency and “additional areas.”

After his Special Message on Energy and the Environment last November, Snyder charged Quackenbush and Bakkal with the information-gathering process and directed them to issue draft reports for public comment and then final reports.

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