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Snyder Efficiency Report: There’s Room for MorePrint

Clean Energy | November 1, 2013 | By Jim Dulzo

In Traverse City, Gov. Rick Snyder visited the home of a family who used a TCSaves loan to finance a major efficiency upgrade.
In Traverse City, Gov. Rick Snyder visited the home of a family who used a TCSaves loan to finance a major energy efficiency upgrade. The Snyder administration’s latest—and last—draft report on Michigan’s energy future says state’s five-year-old energy efficiency mandate, known as Energy Optimization, is not only working well, there’s plenty of room for utilities to do more.

The Snyder administration’s latest—and last—draft report on Michigan’s energy future says what it should: The state’s five-year-old energy efficiency mandate, known as Energy Optimization, is not only working well, there’s plenty of room for utilities to do more to help their customers save electricity and natural gas.

Although the draft says what utilities could accomplish by expanding EO programs, it scrupulously avoids saying what they should do. That’s the governor’s job when he turns the final report, due late this month, into legislative proposals.

In the meantime, we have until Wednesday, Nov. 4, to submit comments on the draft and influence what that final version says. We hope you’ll do that; there’s more on how to, below.

The draft report is a summary of expert studies and lay comments submitted to the administration’s website, “Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions.” The draft finds that utilities are surpassing their mandated energy saving goals; are having few, if any problems helping their customers cut energy use; and are consistently seeing better than three-to-one returns on their efficiency investments.

But the real news is the draft’s findings about “efficiency potential”—the amount of energy that utilities could help us save by continuing their EO programs, which, so far, are mostly about customer rebates for more efficient refrigerators, lights, water heaters, windows, insulation, and the like.

In a surprising turn, the Readying Michigan team said it commissioned two additional reports—one projecting how much more efficiency can be gained in the future, and another, not yet complete, that will offer concrete plans for getting those gains. There’s a list of 1,440 ways to save electricity and 811 to save natural gas, most pretty technical, but it’s interesting reading for wonks like me.

The efficiency draft report includes quite a bit of back-and-forth on metrics and tactics. What’s the best way to measure efficiency gains—and their economic value? Do caps on efficiency investments help or hurt?

Ultimately the report suggests that a 1.5% annual gain in electric efficiency—a half-point higher than the current, ongoing goal—is doable over the next decade. That would add up, by about 2025, to an overall increase in electric efficiency of about 19 percent since 2009, when the original mandate began.

The numbers for natural gas are similar, though slightly smaller.

So, how should we comment at the Readying Michigan page to improve this good report—and help make Michigan a leader, not a follower, in energy efficiency?

An EE expert offered four ideas. (The italics reference sections of the draft.)

First, we could point out that, since the draft says our current "Energy Optimization" mandate is totally rocking at 1% per year, providing the cheapest, cleanest energy possible, the EO program should definitely be expanded. (See Section B, on page 8.)

Second, we could emphasize that the report finds lots of efficiency opportunities are still out there. So, once again, the EO program should be expanded. (See top of page 28.)

Third, we can point out that, while Michigan’s annual 1% efficiency goal is good, other states are doing double that. So…you guessed it...the EO program should be expanded! (See bottom of page 13.)

And fourth, we could remind officials that their draft doesn’t mention that many, many people spoke in favor of EO at the forums, while not a single person spoke against it. (The actual score was 63 Yeas and zero Nays for EO.) So, we should urge officials to note that remarkable support in the public record.

It’s easy to comment: Go to Michigan.gov/energy, click on comments for Energy Efficiency at the bottom, and you’ll see what to do.

Remember, this is our last chance to influence this bracingly transparent, public discussion on Michigan’s energy future before the governor gets to work with the Legislature on energy policy, which is crucial to the state’s economy and our environment.

And please let us know if you do comment. It’s important to keep score!

Jim Dulzo is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s senior energy policy specialist. Reach him at jimdulzo@mlui.org, especially if you file a comment.