Michigan Republican lawmakers have introduced a set of bills in the Senate that seek to eliminate the mandate for renewable energy, which currently requires that 10 percent of energy provided by utilities in Michigan be renewable. These bills would allow the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines, to be determined by the market. Furthermore, these bills prioritize “clean” energy over renewable energy, and consider fossil fuel generation technology to be “clean,” so long as “at least 85 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions captured and permanently sequestered or used for other commercial or industrial purposes that do not result in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” These policies work against renewable energies and flagrantly disregard the importance of fighting against global climate change and the government’s role in doing so. It’s necessary for the government to promote renewable energies through mandates to allow them to develop into more cost-efficient and practical technologies. Failing to do could allow these technologies to fall into disuse, doing a great disservice to the environment and the humans who inhabit it.

Allowing consumers to choose between established energy sources, which are extremely costly to the environment and are unsustainable, and renewable energies, which aren’t harmful to the environment, but are from fledging industries and thus pricier, would likely result in a decrease in renewable energy consumption. The government must mandate renewable energy consumption or consumers will choose cheaper energy sources, regardless of the effects on the environment. Consumers cannot be expected to weigh the long-term effects of global climate change and the benefits of affordable, renewable energy sources in the future over their present needs to make ends meet; the government must step in to act on behalf of the best interests of its people.

Furthermore, the energy bill introduced by the Senate includes potentially devastating changes to net metering. Currently, energy customers who produce renewable energy through solar panels are credited for electricity that they add to the grid in a process called net metering. If the new energy bill is made into law, customers who produce solar energy won’t be able to use the energy they make from their solar panels. Instead, the power that is produced can be sold to energy companies at a wholesale rate and net metering as we know it will be obsolete. Amy Heart, from the industry trade association Alliance for Solar Choice,claims the new bill “dramatically reduces the amount of solar that’s going to be sold in Michigan because it reduces the economic value of it.”

In March, Gov. Rick Snyder released an energy message that said he’d like to see 30 to 40 percent of Michigan’s energy needs met by a combination of renewable and efficient energy by 2025. Similarly, Snyder said it’s possible for Michigan to get 19 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Yet, like the Senate’s new bill, Snyder did not include a renewable energy mandate in his message. Instead, Snyder is focused on reducing energy waste through programs that help citizens update furnaces, water heaters, insulation, etc.

Snyder and the Michigan legislature, while valiant in their efforts to benefit all stakeholders, are misguided in their solutions. Without a compensatory reward, it’s unlikely that ordinary citizens who are focused on pressing issues outside of climate change will create the “demand” they’re supposed to create. After all, in 2014, a Gallup poll found United States’ concern about climate change has dropped, with only 24 percent of respondents worrying a “great deal.” Michigan needs renewable energy because, no matter how aware people are, climate change is a major issue that needs strict, enforced policy in energy-eating nations like the United States. Snyder and the legislature must create better energy policy that benefits consumers and also actively promotes clean, renewable energy.

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