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Local utility company ‘concerned’ with Michigan clean energy bills

TRAVERSE CITY — There are some mixed reactions following the passage of two new energy bills that would give the state authority over local governments on choosing clean energy projects and require utility companies to provide 100% renewable energy by 2040.

The CEO of Cherryland Electric Cooperative Rachel Johnson said the process moved very quickly, so they’re still interpreting what exactly those bills mean.

“If the question is: Is this manageable? The answer is: Those are conversations we should have been having before passing the bill,” Johnson said.

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DTE announced days after the bills were signed that they would be raising their rates 6.4%. Johnson said they’re not sure if they’ll have to do the same. She said it could be five to 10 years before there is a full understanding of how much the mandates will cost Michiganders.

“Good energy policy is policy that balances mitigating environmental impact, reliability and affordability. These bills are very focused on mitigating environmental impact. What we haven’t yet fully vetted is what impact meeting those goals will have on electric reliability and affordability and that the thing that gives me the most concern,” Johnson admitted.

Johnson said they’re already off to a good start operating with around 25% renewable energy and 60% carbon free.

The clean energy mandate requires utility companies to produce 50% of their energy from renewable sources by 2030, then 60% by 2035. Once utility companies have reached 60%, they can use other energy sources like nuclear, hydrogen and natural gas with carbon capture.

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The Climate and Environment Program Director for the Groundworks Center for Resilient Communities, Ashley Rudzinski, said she’s optimistic about the new laws, but think it should only allow for clean energy sources like wind and solar.

“Of course, we’re excited to see a stronger renewable portfolio standard for the state,” Rudzinski stated.

County Commissioner and business owner Rob Hentschel said he’s “not happy” with the new bills arguing the new laws will hurt local communities and families on a tight budget.

“It’s a government imposing regulations that cause costs to go up,” Hentschel said. “You could have windmills, solar farms or other types of renewable regeneration just appear in your backyard and your local elected officials will have no authority to say anything about it.”

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Despite concerns over the cost on taxpayers, environmentalists say the changes may ultimately help Northern Michigan’s economy by protecting its natural resources.

“We really need to be investing in renewable and away from fossil fuels. That’s going to help our rural economy here in Northern Michigan and it’s going to make sure that we have a livable future,” Rudzinski said.


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