Can Republicans in state governments be persuaded to embrace renewable energy? That's one of the key questions in climate action because of the overwhelming GOP control in state capitals nationwide. The party currently controls 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers, including the governorship and both legislative houses in 23 states.
I've been doing some policy work for the American Clean Skies Foundation in Michigan, which is an interesting contrast to California. It's a major industrial state, enjoying a recent revival of its Rust Belt glories. Republicans hold the governor's office, the House and Senate. Meanwhile, the state is facing a federal mandate to cut emissions -- the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan.
The result, unsurprisingly, is confusion. State policymakers are being tugged helter-skelter by several different proposals for energy policy:
- Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed to get 30-40 percent of the state’s power from renewables (including cutting energy waste) by 2025.
- Senate Energy Committee Chair Mike Nofs would create a “Clean Energy Standard” to reduce emissions.
- House Energy Policy Committee Chair Arik Nesbitt would eliminate both the state’s renewables mandates and the Electric Choice program (which is similar to Direct Access in California).
- Sen. Mike Shirkey would dramatically expand the Choice program.
- The Democrats would double the state’s renewable energy standard by 2022.
While some of the above could overlap, many of the agendas, goals and political interests diverge wildly. What to do?
Gregory Staple, the CEO of Clean Skies, and I wrote an op-ed that was published today in the Detroit News. We sketch out a way to escape the impasse and help build alliances that will help move forward on the path to emissions reduction. By expanding the Choice program only for clean-energy solutions, large energy users could switch to renewables and/or invest in energy-saving technologies.
The plan is roughly equivalent to raising the state’s RES from 10 to 18 percent and it could lead to annual reductions of approximately 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. Unlike the RES, however, Clean Choice would get these results on a completely voluntary basis for all customers and suppliers in the program.
Is this similar to what we have proposed for California? Yes indeed.