As the state of Michigan considers two proposals for huge new coal fired power plants, one of the central issues is whether the new coal plants are even needed. Governor Granholm has made clear in an Executive Directive that the state will use its authority under the Clean Air Act and the Michigan Environmental Protection Act to make sure the plants are needed before their harmful air emissions would be permitted. That determination of need will be very difficult in light of new report prepared for the Natural Resources Defense Council by Synapse Energy Economics, a premier energy consulting firm. The report, A Green Energy Alternative for Michigan, details how the state’s businesses and residents can save millions of dollars while avoiding the harmful emissions of new coal fired plants with energy efficiency and conservation. From the report:
Michigan is planning for its electricity future. The Michigan Public Service Commission issued an electricity plan in 2007 titled “The 21st Century Electric Energy Plan.” This Plan projected steady growth in electricity demand and anticipated a need for significant investment in baseload coal-fired generation. Such a plan might work in an era of steady demand growth, predictably low costs for coal-fired electric generation, and little concern over air emissions and global warming. However, that is not today’s world. Our analysis holds the following lessons for Michigan:
- The 21st Century Electric Energy Plan, developed nearly three years ago for the Michigan Public Service Commission, is today out of date, with unrealistic projections of future electrical demand, limited deployment of energy efficiency and renewables, and reliance on 20th Century coal technologies.
- Michigan’s most-attractive energy choice by any measure is energy efficiency, which can be quickly implemented, save energy, make businesses more productive, lower energy bills, create jobs, avoid pollution, and keep money in Michigan. Programs that promote cost-effective efficiency make the single best energy investment available to Michigan citizens, business, and institutions. Renewable energy technologies are also attractive. These are the true 21st Century technologies.
- A portfolio of 21st Century choices is less expensive, cleaner, faster, more economically robust, and creates more jobs in Michigan than a 20th Century plan based on new large fossil-fired power plants.
With this report, it’s clear that the state of Michigan does not need the proposed new coal fired power plants (or their air pollution), and given the state’s legal authority and duty to avoid unnecessary environmental harm from coal plants, the state should deny the permits and instead encourage energy efficiency and conservation.
Update: The Natural Resources Defense Council, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and numerous other environmental organizations have now filed comments with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on Consumers Energy's Electric Generation Alternatives Analysis filing. Our comments, based in part on this new report, demonstrate that Consumers Energy has failed to show the need for its proposed new coal plant.