Granholm's Grand Plan: Michigan's new clean energy vision

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This week, Governor Granholm of Michigan delivered a dramatic State of the State address. More than a third of it was focused on energy issues, laying out a powerful, practical and transformative vision for the state to seize the opportunity for broad renewal through a new, clean energy economy.

The spotlight fell brightest on the Governor's coal announcement. Until last night, Michigan was on the path to sink capital into more dirty coal plants than any other state in America. But today, all of those plants are on hold. The Governor put the breaks on coal development pending a thorough evaluation of need and alternative technologies. Certainly, this is an exciting development---and one that NRDC has been working with a number of other groups to bring about.

More important than this significant development is the fact that it is simply a part of the wide-ranging policy changes and programs that the Governor outlined to literally transform her state's energy sector, and set the conditions for economic renewal.

Governor Granholm is right to embrace Energy Efficiency as the keystone to renewing the economic vitality of Michigan (and the broader Midwest). Energy efficiency refocuses capital on real solutions, strengthens reliability, reboots industry, creates jobs, and saves resources. Her address signaled a similar mindset with an enthusiastic embrace of efficiency reflected in her effort to "decouple" the states utilities (in effect, changing their profit structure away from payment by the kilowatt produced; towards a rate system that rewards efficiency).

And she did not stop there. These new programs and policies were also prominent and powerful:

  • A pledge to reduce Michigan's fossil fuel use by 45% by 2020
  • A renewable energy corps putting jobless citizens to work on weatherization and efficiency projects,
  • A program to help homeowners take on efficiency programs with no money down
  • A deepening embrace of renewable energy generation and manufacturing---both of which have incredible potential in Michigan

These are all policies that don't just change how we deal with energy, but will jumpstart the economy.

Granholm, speaking as the governor of a major industrial state has enthusiastically embraced the vision of a new economy based on clean energy. The next step is to put a price on global warming pollution, which is currently a public subsidy to polluters, who unfairly compete against clean energy services.

In the Midwest, there has been a dangerous "coal rush" to build new dirty plants as if they could drag us out of decline, rather than condemn us to a retrograde Dickensian future. NRDC and other groups have been steadily challenging the worst of the planned coal plants out there---not as a narrow end in itself, but in order to make it possible to seize the promise of a safe, efficient, vibrant future. Governor Granholm seems to have that vision and this week, she staked her leadership on the promise of a clean energy future for her state.

I hope that the rest of us can follow.





Photo: Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (left) and Nancy Gioia, director, Hybrid Vehicle Programs, Ford Motor Company from Ford Motor Company's Flickr  page.