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When President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that the United States would pull out of the Paris Agreement, cities across the country declared that they would uphold the goals of the accord on their own.

Two years later, a handful of Michigan cities have plans in place to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but many more are just in the process of putting a plan together. Which is good, says Jenna Jorns, because cities are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Jorns is the program manager for the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center.

windmill in field
cwwycoff1 / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Xcel Energy has reached a settlement with environmental groups that puts it a step further on its ambitious path to zero carbon emissions by 2050.  

Xcel Energy's Northern Michigan Power division provides electricity to 9,000 customers in Michigan. 

The utility also serves customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico.

Mark Stoering, President of Xcel Energy - Michigan and Wisconsin, says the utility proposes to fast-track the retirement of Xcel's remaining coal-burning power plants by 2030. 

From the top of a mountain, a snowy landscape with trees reveals a view of Lake Superior in the distance.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Most wind energy projects in Michigan are on farmland in the southern part of the state. They are often controversial even there, but one company wants to put a wind farm in an Upper Peninsula forest. Many community members don’t feel that’s the right place either.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The mayor of Lansing wants to power all city buildings with 100% renewable energy starting with the city's new fiscal year.

Mayor Andy Schor is including the switch to primarily wind and solar power in the budget he’s introducing this week.

“We will be the first city in the state of Michigan, as far as we can tell, that will be 100% renewable energy,” says Schor. “And I think that’s really important; we have to lead by example.”

A Lansing Board of Water & Light official says roughly 99% of the power would come from solar and wind sources. 

Car stuck between walls
Gareth Harrison / Unsplash

Today on Stateside, the legislature revisits Michigan’s high auto insurance rates, but will a decrease in rates only come with less guaranteed medical care? Plus, a study looks at how an all-renewable energy grid would have fared in January’s polar vortex.

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below. 

Yousef Rabhi / housedems.com/rabhi

State Representative Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) wants all of Michigan's energy to come from renewable sources by 2050. He proposed a bill that would codify this plan to the Legislature last week.  

Rabhi says he has always been passionate about the environment. He says this bill has been in the works for a while now.

But Rabhi says it was the recent United Nations report on the accelerated timeline of climate change that made him introduce the bill last week.

Consumers Energy

Michigan would see a dramatic boost to the economy by reaching a 30% renewable energy target by the year 2027

That's according to a new study released by the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum -- a group of conservative political and business leaders who support renewable energy because it lowers energy costs for everyone, creates jobs, and is better for public health.

The forum's commissioned report says 30% renewable energy by the year 2027 would have an economic impact of $10.3 billion dollars, and create thousands of new jobs.

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy plans to dramatically increase its use of solar energy by the year 2040.

It's a big part of the utility's first long-term energy plan, required by Michigan's new energy law.

CEO Patti Poppe says solar is clean energy, and the cost of providing it is likely to come down by 35% by 2040.

And she says solar is one of the best options for providing electricity at times of peak demand.

Natural gas plant
World Resources Institute

Utility companies are shutting down some of their older, less efficient coal-burning power plants. 

To generate the electricity to replace those old plants, utilities have to decide whether to build more coal-fired plant or go with natural gas, nuclear, renewable energy, or some combination.

DTE Energy recently decided to replace some of its older coal-burning plants with a natural gas burning plants, incorporating little additional renewable energy.

windmill in field
cwwycoff1 / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Michigan's two largest utilities have struck a deal with the group Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan that will keep a renewable energy initiative off the ballot in November.

The group, backed by California billionaire Tom Steyer, agreed to drop the ballot drive in exchange for a commitment from the utilities to rely on 25 percent renewable energy by the year 2030, and to increase energy efficiency by 25 percent by 2030.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

A majority of Americans say the federal government isn’t doing enough to protect air and water quality.

That’s the latest from a national Pew Research Center survey.

The survey found 69 percent of Americans think the government isn’t doing enough to safeguard water quality, while 64 percent say the government isn't doing enough to protect air quality. 

Starwood Energy Group

General Motors says a new wind farm being constructed in Ohio brings it one step closer to running all its facilities worldwide on 100% renewable energy. 

The 100 megawatt wind farm in northwest Ohio was grandfathered in, before a new law made it almost impossible to build wind farms in that state.

Rob Threlkeld, head of global renewable energy for GM, says the Ohio project, along with one being constructed in Illinois, will offset carbon emissions from seven GM plants in the Midwest.

Wind turbines
Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

Stateside has been looking into changes to the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA). The federal act requires electric utility companies to buy energy from solar, wind, and other renewable generators as long as they don’t have to pay more than it costs to generate that power themselves.

Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg's bill would alter PURPA in a way that would let utilities decline to purchase energy from renewable resources.

We recently talked to the Congressman and a solar energy provider, but we felt like we needed to know more about PURPA itself.

wind turbines in a field
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

DTE Energy says it will rely heavily on wind power double its renewable energy production by 2022.

The state’s largest utility submitted its latest plans to comply with Michigan’s renewable energy portfolio standards to the Michigan Public Service Commission Friday. Those standards require utilities to get 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2021.

DTE's River Rouge plant
DTE Energy

Tracy Samilton also spoke with Morning Edition host Doug Tribou about the issues surrounding the transition to natural gas

The President of the United States says coal is coming back, but in reality coal is going away.

The fight is over what will replace it.

Even utilities are dumping coal. In Michigan, DTE Energy wants to shut down three coal-burning power plants and replace them with a billion dollar natural gas plant.

But environmentalists think there's a better way.  

windmill in field
cwwycoff1 / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Last year, the Trump administration announced it would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, and repeal the Clean Power Plan, or CPP. That’s the Obama-era policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation by 32% by 2030, below 2005 levels.

But in a new study, a group of researchers found that the U.S. can meet its commitment to the international climate agreement without the Clean Power Plan.

Cypress Creek Renewables

Cypress Creek Renewables has been lining up farmland in Michigan for more than a year now.

The object? Leases for enough land to install several hundred megawatts worth of new, emissions-free solar projects. Combined, that would equal the electricity output of a small coal-fired power plant.

But a bill introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., could put a halt to those plans, as well as the plans of other renewable energy companies that want to set up shop in Michigan and states across the nation.

Modernizing PURPA, or gutting it?

Solar panels
Michael Mazengarb / Flickr

Consumers Energy plans to become more environmentally friendly – while keeping customer bills stable.

The company rolled out its “Clean Energy Breakthrough Goal” Monday. It plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% and use zero coal by 2040. The company also plans to have more than 40% of its energy come from renewable sources and energy storage by that same deadline.

“In the past, people believed that we had to choose between affordable and clean energy,” said Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe. “We don’t subscribe to that sucker’s choice.”

Wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A group of environmentalists wants Michigan's utility companies to use 30 percent renewable energy by 2030. The wind and solar advocates have started a campaign to get their proposal on the 2018 statewide ballot. 

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has been following the story. She joined "Morning Edition" host Doug Tribou to discuss the ballot initiative and its chances of becoming law. 


wind turbines
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Construction of a Consumers Energy wind turbine project in Michigan is expected to start three years ahead of schedule.

The Michigan Public Service Commission on Thursday approved the Jackson-based utility's proposal to begin work in 2019 instead of 2022 on Cross Winds Energy Park III in Tuscola County.

In 2016, the commission approved the utility's plan to buy 19 wind turbine generators for its Cross Winds Energy Park II and an option to buy 33 more for the future Cross Winds Energy Park III.

Wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A majority of Americans believe states should take the lead to address climate change if the federal government fails to act.

That’s one of the findings of the latest in a series of National Surveys on Energy and Environment.

The Chevrolet Bolt, a long-range electric car
GM

Less than eight months after General Motors made its initial 100% renewable energy commitment, the Detroit automaker's CEO, Mary Barra, says the timeline will be sped up.

"That's a stake that we put in the ground and now we plan to move that back," Barra said at a press conference held prior to GM's annual shareholders meeting.

A spokesman for GM confirmed the plan, but says there is "no new timetable to announce at this point."

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan energy is getting greener. 

A state report released Wednesday says all Michigan energy providers met or exceeded a government requirement to supply 10% of energy from renewable sources in 2015. 

The Michigan Public Service Commission wrote the report based on a 2008 law. That law also called for a 12.5% standard by 2019 and a 15% standard by 2021. 

The majority of the energy came from provider investments, while a small part came from banked energy credits bought from consumers with an energy surplus.

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

The Next Idea

Last month, Traverse City officials pledged that by the year 2020, all city operations will be powered by renewable energy. That means traffic signals, street lights, and city-owned buildings will get their power from wind, solar, and other clean sources.

Kate Madigan, the Energy and Climate Specialist for the Michigan Environmental Council and director of the Michigan Climate Action Network, joined Stateside to talk about the ambitious effort and if this could be a trend for other cities in the state.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The U.S. EPA estimates that companies in Michigan waste up to a third of the energy they buy because of inefficient buildings and equipment.

But most of the companies just keep paying those high energy bills, month after month, because they can't make a business case for a big energy efficiency project. The payback for the upgrades takes too long – often ten or more years.

Andy Levin is the CEO of Lean and Green Michigan.

DTE Energy / via Twitter

The Michigan Environmental Council says energy legislation signed into law by Governor Snyder on Wednesday is a vast improvement over earlier versions.

The initial package proposed to eliminate Michigan's 10% renewable energy mandate, as well as eliminate a mandate to reduce electricity demand by one percent per year.

Instead, after months of negotiations, the renewable mandate was boosted, to 15% by the year 2021, and electric utilities must still reduce demand by at least one percent a year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A biodigester could be temporarily shut down if the operators can’t figure out how to stop foul smells from wafting over the city of Lowell. This week the Lowell city council voted to instruct its attorney to send a letter to operators to shut down the biodigester until the smell is gone.

The biodigester converts beer waste, salad dressing and manure into methane gas that powers a turbine and generates electricity.

Greg Northrup, a managing partner of the digester, acknowledges smell is still an issue, but he says it should be resolved in the next few days.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

President-elect Donald Trump has called global warming "a very expensive hoax," despite agreement among the vast majority of climate scientists that climate change is happening now and is mainly human-caused. Trump has also put climate change skeptic Myron Ebell in charge of his EPA transition team.

Wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

General Motors has committed to using electricity solely from wind, solar or biogas for all of its 350 operations in 59 countries around the world -- within the next 34 years.

CEO Mary Barra says it "helps us better serve society by reducing environmental impact." 

The automaker says it used about 9 terawatt hours of electricity in 2015 to build its vehicles and power its offices, technical centers and warehouses globally.  A terawatt equals a trillion watts.

Kalamazoo gets a new solar power facility

Aug 15, 2016
Unsplash / Pixabay

Renewable energy is on the rise as more solar power is being produced in Michigan.

Consumers Energy has opened a solar garden at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

The 1-megawatt power facility will service about 200 people.

Roger Morgenstern  is a spokesperson at Consumers Energy and says customers can join a program to help fund renewable energy.

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