Lansing, MI – As some lawmakers attempt to terminate Michigan’s successful clean energy programs, business investors, local leaders and a top national energy expert today said the state should pursue a path to fully meet its energy needs with renewable sources by midcentury—while also saving money, creating jobs and avoiding some of the worst impacts of climate change.
Generating all of Michigan’s energy from wind, water, and sunlight powered sources will create nearly 150,000 jobs, save more than 1,700 lives per year and save the average resident close to $11,000 annually, according to an analysis by Dr. Mark Jacobson, director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, who briefed reporters on a teleconference Monday. Jacobson and colleagues recently published detailed plans for Michigan and every other state to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
“I would encourage policymakers in Michigan and across the country to think big about what’s possible with renewable energy,” Jacobson said. “We’ve reached a point where there are no longer any technological barriers to achieving 100 percent clean power. Going fully renewable might sound ambitious, but we have the tools to make it happen, and we’ll strengthen our economy in the process. With our planet’s climate system in crisis, we need to get there as soon as possible.
Major businesses in Michigan and beyond recognize both the necessity and the economic opportunity in making renewable sources the mainstays of our energy system. For instance, technology company Switch plans to bring 1,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment to West Michigan for its new data center, which will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.
“It is vital for Michigan’s economic competitiveness that when job creators like Switch commit to going fully renewable, the state is able to provide the clean energy resources they need,” said Brianna Murphy, vice president for shareholder advocacy at Trillium Asset Management. “Major companies, like Michigan-based General Motors and Herman Miller, are setting strong renewables goals. They want the price stability that renewable power brings, they value the innovation that comes with the clean energy economy, and their employees and shareholders want to do what’s right for the planet. And so they’re making decisions on where to locate their facilities based on where it’s easy to fully enjoy the benefits of renewable energy.”
Forward-looking communities in Michigan and around the country are taking action to attract investment and become more resilient by committing to 100 percent renewable energy. Grand Rapids, for example, has established a goal to go fully renewable by 2020 in its sustainability plan.
“I can’t think of a better way to encourage entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation in Michigan than making a statewide commitment to 100 percent renewable energy,” said George Heartwell, who was mayor of Grand Rapids when it pledged to go fully renewable. “We set this goal for Grand Rapids not only because of these economic benefits, but because of our desire to take meaningful action on climate change.”
He added that a deeper commitment to clean energy will give our economy a tremendous shot in the arm. Michigan’s modest renewable standard of 10 percent by 2015 spurred blockbuster job growth, saved families money on their electric bills and netted our state about $3 billion in new investment.
Harnessing all of our energy from renewable sources also will go a long way in protecting the health of Michigan residents, and will have a major positive impact in low-income neighborhoods and minority communities, where residents suffer disproportionately from asthma and other serious illnesses related to pollution from burning fossil fuels, and have a harder time recovering from climate impacts like flooding damage to their homes.
“Powering our state with affordable and abundant clean energy sources will make a huge difference in the quality of life for many of Michigan’s most vulnerable residents, and will save billions of dollars in health care costs linked to pollution from power plants,” said Kimberly Hill Knott, director of policy at Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. “Michigan has a big opportunity to improve public health and become a place where all children can grow up healthy, strong and prosperous.”
This event was organized by members of the Michigan Climate Action Network (MICAN), a network of groups and individuals working to build and mobilize a powerful grassroots movement in the Great Lakes state to call for clean energy solutions that will put us on a path to climate stability, resilience and climate justice. We support actions that bring urgency and make progress to slow climate change. Learn more at www.miclimateaction.org.
Video Release: A new 3-minute Yale Climate Connections video about a 100 percent clean energy economy featuring Dr. Mark Jacobson is available today. It was created by MICAN board member Peter Sinclair.