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COLUMN: Michigan needs a well-rounded plan to meet state’s energy needs
RELEASE|September 5, 2023
Contact: Jaime Greene

Op-ed by State Rep. Jaime Greene, R-Richmond, published by the Detroit News on Sept. 4, 2023

Michigan’s pursuit of a forward-looking energy strategy requires a savvy, all-encompassing approach that taps into the diverse strengths of various energy sources. By synergizing biomass, nuclear, and micro-nuclear power, our state can craft a robust, eco-friendly energy future that caters to surging demands while upholding environmental integrity.

Yet, in Lansing, the environmental lobby is leading the Democrat majority astray with beguiling assurances that solar, wind, and hydro alone can fulfill our energy hunger. Their whimsical legislation, House Bills 4759-4761, proposes an audacious renewable energy mandate, compelling electric providers to maintain a 100% carbon-free energy portfolio by 2035. Within these bills, a directive emerges for Michigan’s electric companies to feature 40% renewable energy in their retail energy supply by 2027, escalating to 60% by 2030.

Whether climate change is embraced or not, our future beckons for a blend of cost-efficient, dependable energy sources. Presently, a mere 12% of Michigan’s energy derives from renewables.

Picture this: To meet the mandates outlined, the landscape would demand approximately a tenfold increase in wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectric stations within just 12 years. And this doesn’t even account for the electricity needed for vehicles, appliances, and heating—fantasies of the environmental lobby. Furthermore, the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t perpetually shine, rendering us hostages to the weather forecast for our energy requirements. In response, questioning these irrefutable truths brands one a climate denier rather than addressing the implausibility of these dreams.

While championing renewable energy is commendable, it’s crucial to recognize the merits of nuclear power and the overlooked potential of biomass.

Nuclear energy stands as an established, reliable source of substantial power, bolstering grid resilience and minimizing emissions. Beyond traditional nuclear plants, advances in micro-nuclear technology offer safer, adaptable reactors for localized energy generation.

Biomass fuels, hailing from agricultural leftovers, wood waste, and even landfill refuse, furnish Michigan with a valuable resource. By tapping into biomass, we decrease reliance on fossil fuels, bolster local economies, and open doors to employment, particularly in rural settings.

For community buy-in, implementing strict safety measures is paramount for both nuclear and biomass energy to be successful. For nuclear, rigorous regulations, consistent inspections, and advanced reactor designs ensure operational safety. Sustainable biomass sourcing and eco-friendly land management mitigate environmental impact.

By synergizing biomass and nuclear energy, we harness complementary strengths. Biomass plants offer a steady baseline power, while nuclear energy delivers uninterrupted, emissions-free electricity. This partnership guarantees adaptability to shifts in demand and varying weather conditions.

Striving for a 100% carbon-free portfolio by 2035 without diverse options including nuclear and biomass, reliance may lead to overdependence on intermittent renewables, risking energy shortages and grid instability during lulls in renewable output.

Furthermore, the aggressive targets of House Bills 4759-61 strain the energy industry’s capacity to evolve and invest in a balanced technology mix. Hastening toward these objectives could spur shortsighted choices that disregard long-term implications for energy reliability, affordability, and local jobs.

Moving to a cleaner energy array must entail a comprehensive strategy for energy storage and grid stability. The fluctuation of renewables mandates significant investments in storage technology. Neglecting these facets to achieve an arbitrary 100% carbon-free goal exposes energy supply vulnerabilities.

Rather than dismissing nuclear and biomass, a pragmatic approach prioritizes their integration with other clean energy sources. This approach bolsters economic growth, environmental stewardship, and energy security.

The truth is, we’ll likely invest billions before facing reality: Relying solely on renewables is impractical. A well-rounded strategy that encompasses multiple energy sources, including nuclear and biomass, ensures a smoother transition to a modern energy landscape. This path benefits both the environment and Michigan’s residents by safeguarding energy security, economic progress, and overall well-being.

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Rep. Jaime Greene serves the 65th House District, which covers portions of eastern Lapeer, western St. Clair, and northern Macomb counties. She serves on the House Energy, Communications and Technology Committee, which is currently considering House Bills 4759-4761.

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