Consumers Energy is expanding a very popular solar energy program in Michigan. The program allows people with solar panels on their homes or businesses to sell some of the power they generate to the power company. Lindsey Smith reports state regulators are directing the utility giant to expand the program.
Consumers Energy will double the amount of power it will pay people for.
All utility providers in Michigan are investing in more renewable energy. State law requires them to get at least ten-percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015.
Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop says they’re about halfway to meeting that goal. Bishop says solar plays a role. But even with the planned expansion, the solar program will make up less than one half of one percent of Consumers’ renewable energy plan.
“Our analysis is that wind is the most economic way to meet this standard and serve our customers in the best way.”
Bishop says Consumers Energy is working on building wind farms in Michigan.
Madeleine Weil is a policy advocate at the Environmental Law and Policy Center. She’s been pushing state regulators to expand solar programs mainly to spur economic development. Weil says already more than 120 Michigan companies employ more than 6,000 people in the solar industry.
“It’s awfully helpful to them to have utility programs that support the industry that they’re a part of so that consumers can buy the products that they’re producing.”
Weil is also asking state regulators to direct DTE Energy to expand their solar program as well. DTE plans to file an updated renewable energy plan this month.
For the Environment Report, I’m Lindsey Smith.
This is the Environment Report.
Right now, the federal government manages the gray wolf populations in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But federal officials say the wolves in these states are doing great, and they want to hand management over to the states.
This isn’t the first time federal officials have tried to take wolves off the endangered species list. Wolves were delisted in 2007… but that delisting was challenged in court by some environmental groups. And wolves were put back on the list.
Some members of Congress are trying to make sure these kinds of lawsuits don’t happen again.
Candice Miller represents Michigan’s 10th district. It’s in the Thumb. She just introduced a bill that would amend the Endangered Species Act… and remove wolves from the list. Her bill would make it more difficult for anybody to sue over that decision.
“You have a number of anti-hunting groups they constantly tie these decisions up in court. I think this legislation is a huge tool to be used so the courts don’t have these things happening.”
She says her office has been approached by sportsmen and farmers worried about wolves preying on deer, moose and livestock.
Michigan’s wolf management plan does not call for a hunting season for wolves. The state legislature would have to decide that.
Essentially, Miller’s bill would take the decision to delist the wolves out of the hands of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and critics say it would make it much harder to sue the government over wolf management.
Noah Greenwald is with the Center for Biological Diversity. His group has successfully sued in the past to keep wolves on the endangered list. He calls Miller’s bill dangerous.
“Do we want every time a species conflicts with a moneyed interest or other politically well connected interest to then be removed by Congress simply because of politics? I don’t think so. I think we want decisions about the survival of our wildlife to be made by scientists.”
Last month’s budget bill included a rider that removed federal protection from the Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves. That was the first time in history that Congress removed Endangered Species Act protection for an animal.
That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.