At Michigan's State of the State address this week, Governor Rick Snyder pushed a vision of 2015 that aims to restructure how government operates and works for real people. What this could mean on the energy front, however, is still to be determined. While the governor again outlined his four pillars for energy policy adaptability, reliability, affordability, and protection of the environment, he left the nitty- gritty details for a special address coming in March.
He did provide one teaser, however, and it was perhaps the most intriguing and mysterious tidbit: the announcement that he plans to form a new energy agency. The mission of the agency is unclear beyond its task to better organize the efforts of the Michigan Public Service Commission, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
All three of these agencies (and the Department of Environmental Quality which will hopefully be integrated as well) touch on important pieces of the energy policy puzzle: from utility rate design, energy efficiency and renewable energy targets to managing emissions. It's critical to have a supportive and reinforcing relationship between these organizations so that not only do we ramp up the amount of energy (and money) we can save in Michigan, but also make sure the utility business model is structured to best achieve these savings (such as through mechanisms like decoupling) and further that these savings count toward compliance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed first-ever limits on pollution from power plants.
This kind of restructuring is uncharted territory for Michigan. Skeptical minds might fear that a new agency may slow down or complicate the process, but with hope and the Governor's patented relentless positive action it will aid in coordinating and moving energy policy that benefits Michiganders from Keweenaw's copper country to historic Monroe.
Michigan often seems on the cusp of some big changes in the energy front and last year was no different with an energy working group, headed by Senator Mike Nofs, and the release of three bipartisan sponsored bills. Taken together these signal a strong foundation and desire to build and expand upon the successes of current state policy.
Let us no longer have to say "wait 'til next year. " Instead, let's give a final push and make energy work for the people of Michigan this year.