After a string of stunning home-court performances, the Wolverines sit atop the Big Ten basketball standings. On the heels of these last few spectacular seasons with Michigan Coach John Beilein, the University has truly reestablished itself as an elite program in college basketball. After all, we are the “Leaders and Best,” and we should feel proud for this accomplishment. But, are we always the leaders and best? When it comes to the administration’s renewable energy policy, we are actually far from the top.
The University of Michigan’s energy portfolio, which mostly derives from DTE’s coal-powered grid, is frankly abysmal. We’re left to wonder: where has our competitive spirit gone? Ranked against the other Big Ten schools, Michigan falls far behind the pack. One of our closest competitors, Michigan State, is currently at 8 percent renewable energy with a goal to reach 15 percent by 2015, increasing to 40 percent by 2030. Ohio State’s electricity portfolio is 23 percent wind energy. Northwestern recently climbed to 37 percent. Michigan, on the other hand, receives less than 4 percent of its energy from renewables and has completely unsatisfactory renewable energy goals.
Granted, the University does have a goal to reduce 25 percent of its carbon emissions by 2025. This step, however, is a far cry from a comprehensive renewable energy policy and seems paltry when compared to the other efforts underway throughout all of the Big Ten, let alone the nation’s leading universities. Students for Clean Energy, a group dedicated to persuading Michigan to make the switch to renewable energy, thinks we can match — if not exceed — Michigan State’s goal, at the very least.
Since the launch of Planet Blue, a student sustainability initiative on campus, the administration’s commitment to renewable energy has stagnated. Students are left to wonder why the administration has not committed to increased renewable energy investment when seemingly every other Big Ten school has. SfCE met with several times in the Fall 2012 term to talk about the importance of a clean energy portfolio for meeting their emissions goal, which cannot be met by efficiency standards alone. It was told the University had no interest in setting such a goal. So, SfCE tried to get the University’s attention by helping the Divest and Invest Campaign successfully raise student awareness concerning renewables.
The fact of the matter is the University will continue to be a hypocrite concerning sustainability and renewable energy until it makes an actually significant step. We can start by buying Renewable Energy Credits from DTE, like Northwestern does, or sign a long-term renewable energy contract like Ohio State, a power purchasing agreement, saving the school one million dollars per year. These are easy transitions to make and could lead to the University saving a lot of money. Nevertheless, as of yet the University is still refusing to take such a step. The University is failing to see that its students are vehemently passionate about committing to clean energy. That’s why Students for Clean Energy is launching a new campaign to make Michigan’s energy portfolio more renewable than its Big Ten peers, especially OSU and MSU. If we want our University to live up to its own standard of excellence, we need to strive for that in everything — especially renewable energy. Until the administration makes that change, we won’t really be the “Leaders and Best.”
Jesse Selvin is an LSA junior, C.J. Biggs is an LSA sophomore, and Juliana Roth is an LSA junior.