The Rapidian

A Watershed Moment: The push for a better Renewable Energy Standard

This week, we hear from Matt Blain, Organizer for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, as he discusses the Renewable Energy Standard Initiative.
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A Watershed Moment

“A Watershed Moment” is a weekly radio program focused on environmental news and happenings in West Michigan, plus solutions for living a greener life. Broadcast on WYCE-FM 88.1 on Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., this program is produced by Grand Rapids Community Media Center and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Matt Blain, West Michigan Field Organizer for Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Matt Blain, West Michigan Field Organizer for Michigan League of Conservation Voters /Courtesy of Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Michigan’s environmental advocates scored a big win last week when the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs Campaign announced that it had collected 530,000 signatures, over 200,000 more than needed, to bring a more aggressive Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to the ballot this November.

On this week's episode of "A Watershed Moment," we hear from Matt Blain, West Michigan Organizer for Michigan League of Conservation Voters, on the topic.

The new initiative calls for utility suppliers to obtain 25 percent of their power from renewable energy sources such as wind, biomass, solar power or hydro power by the year 2025. Currently, only about 4 percent of Michigan’s power comes from renewable resources. These “25 by 25” standards represent a stricter goal than Michigan’s current law, requiring a 10 percent increase by 2015.

This isn’t just a victory for environmental activists concerned about air quality and climate change; stronger RES will have a direct impact on Michigan’s economy, says Blain.

The renewable energy market is a $260 billion business and growing. Blain believes that it doesn’t take an economist to figure out that the $1.4 to $1.8 billion dollars shelled out each year to import coal into Michigan would be better served investing in a growing industry that would keep money and jobs in the state.

“One of the best things about renewable energy is that it’s becoming cost-competitive with coal. Sixty percent of our electricity comes from coal power and we import 100 percent of the coal that we use to produce our electricity,” said Blain, “What this proposal will do is create 44,000 Michigan jobs and these are jobs that can’t be outsourced to other states. It will also spark over $10 billion in new investments.”

That jobs number may even be a little low, with a new estimate from the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs Campaign projecting creation of as many as 56,000 jobs as result of a more agressive RES.

To date, more than 30 states have enacted laws similar to Michigan's 25 by 25 ballot proposal.

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