Review of Michigan Energy in 2019: Christmas Edition

Nick Amoscato Creative Commons

Part of NRDC's Year-End Series Reviewing 2019 Energy & Climate Developments

What a year it’s been for climate and clean energy in Michigan! These last twelve months welcomed lots of cases at the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), announcements at the state level, changes in leadership, reports, and increased community input and impact. Scroll down from year-start to year-end to see just some of the highlights of 2019 followed by The Climate and Clean Energy Christmas Song for Michigan.

January

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 2019 weathered a frigid start to the year thanks to the Polar Vortex that hit the Midwest. Michiganders in particular will remember the untimely need to lower their thermostats in response to a utility facility fire. 
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February

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By joining the Alliance, Governor Whitmer agreed to implement policies that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emission by at least 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, track and report progress, and accelerate new and existing policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy deployment at the state and federal level. 
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With Governor Whitmer's first appointment, she brought on Dan Scripps, a man whose level of energy knowledge is matched only by his level of enthusiasm for it. 
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March

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An integrated resource plan or "IRP" requires the utility to best predict their customers’ power needs over the next fifteen to twenty years and describe how they plan to meet that need reliably and cost-effectively. Unfortunately, NRDC and others found DTE's IRP deeply flawed and are calling for its rejection.
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April

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The 2019 Clean Jobs Midwest report boasted 737,031 clean energy jobs in the region and crowned Michigan as the leader of the pack yet again! 
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MPSC 101 - Community Energy Training takes place on April 11
In early April, about 50 people gathered for a training hosted by Michigan Energy Efficiency for All partners, with leadership from Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC), Soulardarity, National Housing Trust (NHT), Ecology Center, and NRDC. The training was created to discuss the MPSC and how to make the Michigan energy advocacy space more equitable and inclusive of the communities that are affected by the policies made there. 
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May

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The MPSC 101 primer kicked off what turned into a seven-blog series aimed at demystifying utility regulation, business models, and law in Michigan. 
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The MPSC cut nearly $203.3 million from the $476.6 million total DTE had requested, while approving an electric vehicle pilot and denying an unwarranted fee for distributed generation like rooftop solar. 
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June

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Last year, Consumers Energy put forward a "clean and lean" IRP that was truly transformative in its commitment to increased energy efficiency and renewables and its absence of any additional large gas plants. This date celebrates clean energy progress and the first IRP to be acted upon by the MPSC under the state’s energy laws passed in 2016. 
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 Dr. Brandy Brown is named as Governor Whitmer's climate and energy advisor, bringing one of the most technically advanced (PhD in energy efficiency evaluation!) and motivated minds into the important role of coordinating the state's effort on climate change. 
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152 people signed in and many spoke at the public hearing lasting over four and a half hours! There was particularly large and impactful turnout from the community-based group, Work for Me, DTE.
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A bipartisan legislative package was introduced on this day to increase access to electric vehicle charging in Michigan by making more charging infrastructure available to all Michiganders on state property, at the workplace, and in condominiums and apartments.
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July

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DTE's plan aims to achieve energy savings of 1.625% in 2020 and 1.75% in 2021 and includes descriptions of their programs and pilots to achieve these levels of savings and learnings. NRDC, NHT, Sierra Club, Ecology Center, Ecoworks, and Soulardarity are all participants in the case looking to increase and improve the budget, savings level, and program design overall and for low-income/low-income multifamily customers in particular. 
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This rate case marks the sixth proposed rate increase for DTE in the last seven years! NRDC and others including the Attorney General, Michigan Environmental Council, and Citizens Utility Board of Michigan are active participants in the case pushing back against the proposed increase.
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August

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Consumers Energy's plan aims to achieve the highest energy savings seen in the state at 1.9% in 2020 and 2.18% in 2021. NRDC, NHT, and Ecology Center are participants in the case and are working with Consumers Energy to make this plan their most innovative yet. 
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September

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With Governor Whitmer's second appointment to the Commission, she brought on Tremaine Phillips--a triple threat with legal, public, and private expertise in clean, renewable, and reliable energy resources. 
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October

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Commissioner Scripps describes it best as an initiative focused on maximizing the benefits of transition to clean distributed energy resources for Michigan residents and businesses. "Goal is action over words, direct execution over fancy reports."
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November

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 NRDC joined a broad group of clean energy, environmental justice, and consumer advocacy organizations led by Vote Solar in giving DTE a failing grade on their IRP.
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December

Energy and Policy Institute released a report discussing how utilities use charitable giving to influence politics and increase investor profits and put a spotlight on DTE. 

The year has certainly had its ups and downs, but overall I'm left proud of the serious progress we've seen on climate and clean energy and hopeful for the year to come. So join me in celebrating 2019 with The Climate and Clean Energy Christmas song:

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*To the tune of Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song*
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Climate crisis feeling awfully dire 
Michigan working to oppose
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IRPs being filed more than prior 
Experts’ pressed to fight status quos
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Everybody knows renewables and efficiency
Help to make the season bright
Clean, safe, affordability 
The only way to do it right.
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The Commission’s on their way
They’ve loaded lots of rules and orders on their sleigh
And every advocate is gonna spy
To see if utilities follow through and comply
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And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from Troy to the U-P
Although it's been said many times, many ways
Climate action needs you!
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About the Authors

Ariana Gonzalez

Senior Energy Policy Analyst, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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