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Michigan Needs a Stronger Renewable Energy Standard

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Dr. John Patten
Professor and Chair, Department of Manufacturing Engineering, and Director, Manufacturing Research Center, Western Michigan University

Kalamazoo, MI

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The idea of switching over to renewable energy really came together for me during the oil embargoes of the 1970s, while I was in college and working at General Motors. I could not get gas for my car and we could not get enough oil for lubricants, cutting fluids and hydraulics at work. These events put me on a 40-year career path working in clean energy, starting with studying solar energy at the University of Florida and Oakland University, to working as an energy engineer, and I’ve been practicing and implementing what I learned ever since.

I like to walk the talk, backing up my words with action. I currently drive a Plug-in Prius, converted in 2008. While I’m at work, it’s charged with wind energy (using the wind turbine I installed in 2007), and while at home, I take advantage of my local utility company’s 100% renewable energy rate. For each kilowatt hour (kWh) we consume at home, the utility company purchases a renewably generated kWh.

Wind power in Michigan

Photo: Flickr user RTD Photography

About 30 years ago I conceived, designed and had installed a solar-charged electric vehicle (EV) system for my converted S-10 pick-up truck.  I started with this one EV, and ended the project with four EVs, before I relocated from North Carolina to Michigan in 2003—yes, I moved north from the sunny (hot and humid) South.

I personally believe in 100% renewable energy as I use at home with the green generation program and at work with the wind turbine to charge the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Since I moved to Michigan 10 years ago, the state has made great progress growing its supply of renewable energy and is well on its way to meeting the state’s renewable energy standard. But the current law—which requires utilities to generate 10 percent of its electricity from clean sources like wind and solar power—is set to expire at the end of next year.

Now is the time to write the next chapter of this successful policy with a new and stronger standard.

A recent UCS analysis found that Michigan can triple the power produced from in-state renewable energy sources by 2030 at virtually no additional cost to consumers, all while maintaining reliability and spurring billions of dollars of investment in the state.

Solar panels on a roof in Michigan

Photo: Flickr user snre

Michigan can easily increase the state’s reliance on nonpolluting sources to at least 30 percent by 2030. Without such a move, Michigan’s vast renewable energy resources will stay largely untapped, while increasing the many risks associated with an over-reliance on coal and natural gas.

I believe in 100% renewable energy. We are on the right path and trajectory and if we stay the course long enough we will make it. But right now in Michigan, we are at a crossroads. We need to move quickly to maximize the economic, public health and environmental benefits of a clean and reliable energy future.

Posted in: Energy, Fossil Fuels Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About the author: John Patten has been involved in alternative and renewable energy activities for over 30 years. Most recently, he created the wind manufacturing group in Michigan to promote the development and manufacturing of utility scale wind turbines in the state. Dr. Patten is also currently spearheading the Western Michigan University Green Manufacturing Initiative, which involves the design and manufacture of environmentally benign and energy conscious products and processes, and the Green Manufacturing Industrial Consortium. Dr. Patten is a member of the UCS Science Network.

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  • Grace Adams

    Right on! I am afraid that if we fail to make great progress in replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy and efficiency even sooner that 2030, we are likely to make such a mess of climate as to lose our farms and thus lose civilization.

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