energy

Michigan’s energy chief says damage to the protective coating on an oil and gas pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac was worse than initially reported.

ANGELICA A. MORRISON

Lake Erie is a route for huge freighters carrying cargo to cities like Cleveland and Buffalo. Now a company wants to use the lake to transport another product: electricity.

It plans to run an underwater electrical cable from Canada to the U.S. That would be the first one to cross any of the Great Lakes.

The Next Idea

Michiganders might be using electricity the wrong way. A new report indicates Michigan might be able to meet projected energy shortfalls if residents change how they use power. That would save having to build new, expensive power plants.

The U.S. EPA estimates that companies in Michigan waste up to a third of the energy they buy because of inefficient buildings and equipment.

But most of the companies just keep paying those high energy bills, month after month, because they can't make a business case for a big energy efficiency project. The payback for the upgrades takes too long – often ten or more years.

Andy Levin is the CEO of Lean and Green Michigan.

President-elect Donald Trump has called global warming "a very expensive hoax," despite agreement among the vast majority of climate scientists that climate change is happening now and is mainly human-caused. Trump has also put climate change skeptic Myron Ebell in charge of his EPA transition team.

Summer vacation is now just a fond memory for students in Michigan's schools -- and our state lawmakers. 

We sat down today with state House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, to explore some of the issues before the State House of Representatives. 

Republican Senator John Proos of St. Joseph is proposing legislation that would require individuals with solar panels to sell their energy back to the utility companies at a wholesale rate and buy it back at a retail rate. This is also known as net metering.

Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio Network

  Michigan could realistically get up to 40 percent of its energy using renewable sources by 2025, according to Gov. Rick Snyder (The video of the full speech is here).

His goal of boosting renewable energy to between 30 percent and 40 percent 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.

What will Michigan's energy future look like?

Jan 22, 2015

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."

Deal would lower electricity rates in the Upper Peninsula

Jan 14, 2015
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Governor Rick Snyder has announced a preliminary agreement that would lower electricity rates in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Rates have jumped in the Upper Peninsula to subsidize an aging coal-fired power plant in Presque Isle, which lost its largest paying customer – a mining company.

The coal industry and conservative politicians say new carbon rules for coal-burning power plants will kill the industry, and they warn that without coal, extreme weather events, like last year's polar vortex, could leave people in the cold and dark. But how well does this argument hold up?

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?"

Our need for energy could be colliding with our desire to preserve Michigan’s natural beauty.

Case in point: around 9,700 acres of Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling could be included in an MDNR auction October 29 for a lease of mineral rights.

Ron French reported on this story for Bridge Magazine. He said it’s not unusual for the state to lease ground underneath state parks.

Twice a year the Michigan Department of Natural Resources holds an auction where they lease oil and gas rights to anyone who wants to explore. Companies or individuals can nominate any state property for exploration for oil and gas. One Michigan oil company nominated Hartwick Pines.

Hartwick Pines State Park holds a 49 acre parcel that is the largest, and possibly the last, virgin forest of white pines in the Lower Peninsula.

“These are pine that are up to 400 years old, they’re up to 12 feet in circumference, they are up to 165 feet tall, this is what Michigan looked like before logging,” French said.

French points out that a lease is not a right to drill on the property.

“What are the chances of something going on near Hartwick Pines? They are small, but they are greater than they would be if this lease hadn’t occurred,” French said.

There are nearly 2,600 dams in Michigan, and more than 90% are going to hit or exceed their design life by 2020.

That's according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave Michigan a grade of "D" on the condition of its dams.

Keith Metheny looked into the issue of Michigan's aging dams in a recent piece in the Detroit Free Press, where he is the environmental reporter. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Governor: More Renewables, Less Coal

Dec 19, 2013

Governor Rick Snyder says it’s time for state lawmakers to set new energy goals for Michigan. He says those goals should include burning less coal and increasing renewable energy production over the next decade.

Snyder outlined a broad set of goals for energy policy between now and 2025 during a roundtable Thursday in Detroit.

WE Energies

A coal plant in Michigan's Upper Peninsula will not power homes and businesses below the Mackinac Bridge. Wolverine Power Cooperative announced today it is dropping a plan to invest in the Presque Isle Power Plant.

Wolverine Power supplies electricity to rural areas in lower Michigan through utilities like Cherryland Electric and Great Lakes Energy. Wolverine was planning to become a joint owner of the Presque Isle plant in Marquette. The coal plant is almost 40-years old and needs expensive upgrades.

Holland To Phase Out Coal

Dec 19, 2013

The city of Holland will phase out the burning of coal to generate electricity. Holland reached a settlement with the Sierra Club to stop burning coal in one of three units at its city-owned power plant in 2016. The other two units will be off coal in ten years.

The Sierra Club claims the DeYoung plant is pumping out air pollutants at 3.5 times the limit set by the EPA to protect public health.

Sierra Club had challenged coal burning permits issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Holland and to Wolverine Power Cooperative based in Cadillac.

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Electric customers in northern Michigan will not be paying for a new coal fired power plant.

Wolverine Power Cooperative announced Tuesday that it will not build its Clean Energy Venture near Rogers City. The Cadillac-based utility supplier put an estimated $20 million dollars into developing plans for the plant over the last seven years.

Our state is working to get its energy needs met by wind and other renewable sources.

Right now, state law mandates that electric providers must obtain 10% of their electricity sales from renewable resources by 2015.

We're on track to do that.

But a recent report turned in to Governor Snyder says we could boost that to 30% by 2035. And when compared to neighboring states, Michigan's Renewable Portfolio Standard, the RPS, is not as robust as it could be.

John Quackenbush is the Chairman of the State Public Service Commission who led the renewable energy study at the Governor's request, and James Clift is the director of the Michigan Environmental Council. They joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

  Michigan’s two U.S. Senators are raising a series of questions about the safety of an oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin are asking for a response from the federal agency that oversees pipeline safety.

Earlier this year Enbridge Energy increased the flow in line 5 by 50,000 barrels a day. That also meant increased pressure in the 60 year old line.

The senators point out that a spill in the waters of the Straits would have devastating effects on the Great lakes and on the region’s economy.

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy will defend its wind farm before a Mason County appeals board Wednesday night. The utility is resisting an order by the county to tone down the noise from several of its turbines.

Last summer, a consultant found that noise from four of the eight turbines it tested exceeded what’s allowed by Mason County’s wind ordinance. In September, the planning commission ordered Consumers Energy to submit a plan to reduce the noise.

Oil Pipeline Spurs Rally At Straits

Jul 12, 2013

Environmental groups want an oil pipeline company to replace a sixty-year-old line that runs under the Straits of Mackinaw. They’re holding a rally at the Straits this Sunday.

Beth Wallace with the National Wildlife Federation says there have been leaks in other sections of line 5, not in the part that runs under the Straits.

“You know this pipeline is not spill proof. And an expansion of a sixty year old pipeline that runs through some of the most sensitive areas in the world is not the direction that we should be going,” Wallace says. 

The same company responsible for the worst inland oil spill ever wants to increase the amount of oil going through its pipeline under the Straits of Mackinaw.

Enbridge Energy says it has increased safety inspections since the disaster at the Kalamazoo River a couple of years ago. And the company says the pipeline that runs underwater west of the Mackinaw Bridge is perfectly safe.

But a Great Lakes environmental group isn’t convinced and is trying to stop the plan.