With this action in the Senate, it seems to me that advocates for energy efficiency and renewable energy should oppose action on the energy package this year, make it a campaign issue this fall to strengthen our position in the House, and make sure that the utility companies can’t get what they want unless it is coupled to a strong efficiency and renewable package. It will be better to wait and get a good package in the next session than to lose all leverage and get a weak package in this session.
Late last night, the Michigan Senate gutted the renewable portfolio standards and energy efficiency bills that have been wending their way through the legislature for the past 18 months.
Reports from the front (the Senate Journal for yesterday is not yet updated so details are only available from eye witnesses to the midnight massacre) the Senate passed a substitute bill offered up by Senator Patty Birkholz that calls for just a 7 % COMBINED Energy Efficiency and Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2015 and opens up huge loopholes in the definitions of renewables. Just a note -- Consumers Energy is thought to already have a 4% RPS -- and this is a pathetic level compared with the city of Grand Rapids which has met a 25% RPS after just three years. Energy Efficiency, the cheapest, cleanest and fastest to capture “new” energy source was urged to be at least 1% per year -- this is less than even that goal.
Senator Birkholz also was the prime speaker AGAINST the version of the RPS bill that came out of the Energy and Technology Committee with bipartisan support. Senator Olshove offered the substitute, but apparently Senator Birkholz led the gutting and filleting that, if it were to actually pass the full legislature, would make Michigan the laughing stock of the country. Olshove’s sub lost by 16 to 20 -- details on the vote breakdowns will await the publication of the Senate Journal.
Add to this that the Senate also passed HB 5524, the bill that the utilities and major manufacturers wanted that partially reregulates the utilities -- no details on whether this contains the Integrated Resource Planning provisions sought by environmentalists, but it can be expected that it does contain the “deskewing” language (shifting costs onto residential customers from manufacturers) and the removal of most of the customer choice provisions in place in the past.
A Friday night massacre like this in prime summer weekends away season is a classic way to bury the bodies before the public wakes up. The bills will need to go to the House, whose moderate bills look positively visionary in comparison to this mess. The timing and manner of House consideration is yet to be learned. House members, eager to keep their jobs, have been expected to disburse after yesterday’s session, although there are usually sessions scheduled one day a week through the summer in the event there is a need for action. Sounds like there will be a LOT of need for action.
Anne M. Woiwode, State Director
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