Governor Snyder Puts Energy Efficiency at the Heart of Michigan's Energy Future

In his long awaited energy and environment address yesterday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder made it clear that energy efficiency is a cornerstone – if not the cornerstone—of Michigan’s energy future.  He called energy efficiency, “the best example of a no-regrets policy Michigan can have,” describing how his administration is seeking to prioritize energy solutions “that are good for Michigan, not just in one possible future, but in many possible futures.”   While NRDC will like not agree with every aspect of the Governor’s address, his focus on energy efficiency could not be more commendable.

Michigan has made enormous strides on energy efficiency over the past three years, earning a “most improved” ranking in the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s annual scorecard of state energy efficiency performance.  Since Michigan’s energy efficiency standard was passed in 2008, the utilities have saved enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes for a year, and have avoided five dollars for every dollar spent on saving energy.  This is a good foundation to build on, as Governor Snyder has proposed to do, noting that by 2015 “we will be in a good position to set higher goals” for both energy efficiency and renewable energy.

He also described complementary policies that can really advance the market for energy efficient buildings.  For example, making energy efficiency information available to home buyers as they are shopping for a new home will help to create real estate markets that value efficiency.  Another example is targeting energy efficiency projects to geographic areas of the state that might otherwise need more expensive upgrades in distribution or transmission infrastructure can help to keep electric system costs low over time. 

Governor Snyder has recognized the multiple benefits of energy efficiency, stating that, “It makes us more reliable, more affordable and protects our environment.”  However, it also creates jobs in Michigan, and has spurred the development of a new industry—the energy efficiency industry.  A good example of a new business that might not exist without Michigan’s energy efficiency policies is PureEco E.S., with their main office in Troy, MI, and a satellite office in Petoskey, MI.  PureEco was launched by the Oswald family in 2008, shortly after legislation in Michigan required electric utilities to get serious about generating energy savings through energy efficiency programs for residential, commercial and industrial customers.  The utility programs have helped drive customer demand for services from companies like those offered at PureEco E.S.  Ryan Oswald noted recently that the family business benefits from utility rebates that shorten the payback period for the upfront costs of energy efficiency measures – making projects more feasible for more residents. Ryan explains, “Without the incentives, a lot of these installations and second phase projects wouldn’t happen.”  PureEco is one of hundereds of lcoal businesses who work as trade allies to the utilities in implementing energy efficiency programs.

Traditionally, energy efficiency has been embraced by policymakers on every point of the political spectrum.  Over the last few years extreme partisanship has threatened to erode Republican support for efficiency, even though it has been acknowledged by economists of every stripe as a strategy that is essential to economic growth.  It is significant that Governor Snyder has made energy efficiency such a large part of his vision for Michigan’s, demonstrating that there is still broad bipartisan support in the Midwest for maximizing the benefits of energy efficiency through proven policies that will reduce pollution, reduce bills, enhance reliability and create jobs.  Bravo Governor Snyder.

This post was co-authored by Lauren Mosena.