Energy legislation implications for Michigan farmers

Agriculture and Michigan’s new energy efficiency and renewable energy standards law.

In December, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a set of bills that extends and improves both the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) and the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This is significant because last year Michigan legislators were calling for the eliminating the EERS and the RPS policies, under a call to "end the mandates." Under the leadership of Governor Snyder, legislators, utilities, and renewable energy proponents worked together to develop legislation that encourages energy conservation and in-state renewable energy development apart from utilities. Governor Snyder said this new legislation will "save Michigan residents millions of dollars on their electric bills" and help the state "find new ways to use our existing energy grid more efficiently."

Key aspects of the legislation:
  • Keeping true net metering and getting rid of the proposed grid charge. However, within one year, the MPSC must conduct a study and devise an "equitable tariff” for customers on net metering.
  • Increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard from 10% to 12.5% by 2019 and 15% by 2021 and retaining the energy optimization standard through 2021.
  • Providing additional incentives for utility energy efficiency programs and implementing an integrated resource planning process for new power sources.
  • Outlining new requirements for electric choice alternate suppliers.
  • Including a nonbinding goal to meet 35% of Michigan’s power needs through a combination of renewable energy and waste reduction by 2025.

There are many implications for agriculture in this legislation, but there are two in particular that impact farmers. First, this legislation demonstrates a continued commitment to energy conservation. Governor Snyder is quoted as saying “the best energy is the energy you never have to use”. There are many opportunities in agriculture to reduce energy consumption. On average since 2010, farms have saved 41 percent on their electricity expenses when they have implemented recommended energy efficiency practices. There are many very effective programs in Michigan that farmers can participate in that will help them reduce the costs associated with implementing energy conservation practices. They are not onerous to participate in and the people who administer the programs are eager to help farmers access the dollars available to them. Farmers can learn about these programs at the 2017 Powering Michigan Conference scheduled for March 9 at the Kellogg Center on the Michigan State University campus.

Second, by increasing the RPS, legislators signaled their confidence in Michigan agriculture to provide feedstocks for renewable energy and become renewable energy generators. Whether it is providing manure or bioenergy crop feedstocks, or land for solar arrays or wind turbines, agriculture is poised to be a player in Michigan’s energy future. It is interesting to note that the legislation included an expansion of the "renewable fuel" definition to include steam power, woody biomass, and geothermal energy. This expanded definition opens up new opportunities for Michigan agriculture.

Over the next four months there will be opportunities at various workshops and conferences scheduled around the state for farmers to learn about growing feedstocks for energy generation, reducing energy consumption, and becoming renewable energy providers. Details about each program will be posted on the Michigan State University Extension website. Contact Charles Gould at 616-994-4547 or for more information.

Did you find this article useful?