Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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By John Sarver,
Chair of the Michigan Wind Working Group

100% Renewable Energy in Our Future?

The majority of states have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), mandates requiring that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable resources by a certain date. In 2008, Michigan enacted a 10% by 2015 RPS requirement. A ballot initiative is now underway to increase the RPS to 25% by 2025. This will resume the debate about what is feasible.

A recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report indicates we can get to 95% renewables by 2050. The report states that an ambitious energy efficiency program, in parallel with massive development of renewable energy, will result in such a global energy system by 2050. Energy will move towards a decentralized system using local renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. In addition to massive investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, these approaches depend on the use of electric vehicles and a smart grid.

I remember a Solar Today article that described a 100% renewable future – the use of local, clean resources and elimination of the economic, security, and political problems from a dependence on foreign oil. I liked that future. Then, of course, we have climate change. Let’s assume all those scientists are wrong about climate change. So we make investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy and eliminate the risk of climate change, have cleaner air, and create millions of jobs. Sounds like a pretty good insurance policy to me.

But is this energy efficient and renewable energy future, even in 2050, realistic?  I believe the energy efficiency piece is very realistic, as demonstrated by numerous energy efficiency efforts during the past 35 years, and we have a variety of renewables (wind, solar, hydro, bioenergy, geothermal) to help us achieve a clean and renewable energy future. Wind is an abundant, cost effective resource in the Great Lakes region. Michigan has a generating capacity around 30,000 MW and studies have identified over 10,000 MW of potential onshore wind capacity and over 300,000 MW offshore capacity. The Great Lakes Wind Collaborative, Michigan Wind Working Group, and many other organizations are helping to develop the region’s wind energy resources in a responsible manner.

But will this cost too much and hurt our economy?  The WWF scenario requires an investment of 3% of GDP in energy efficiency and renewable resources, but those investments generate net savings by 2035. Recent wind energy power purchase agreements in Michigan have come in as low as $60/MWh and Michigan energy efficiency programs are costing $13/MWh. The Michigan Public Service Commission estimates that a new coal power plant would cost $133/MWh.

A clean and renewable energy future improves our environment, strengthens our economy, and reduces our dependence on imported energy, but we must start making more investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy now!

By John Sarver,
Chair of the Michigan Wind Working Group


  1. What a bunch of BALONEY. This industry is nothing but a subsidy sucking sink whole filled with taxpayer dollars that will never solve our energy needs, without being backed up with traditinal forms of energy;coal,gas,nuclear and hydro.
    Bill Frantz

  2. Keep dreaming Sarver, what a clown!

  3. If this is the brightest mind in the state on wind energy then i am suprised any turbines have been built in Michigan,By the way John I here your beloved Wind Working Group is about to be disolved.How are those turbines spinning in Lenawee county maybe ask your buddy Brion how his wind project is going.
    Oh wait there is no project because of "significant opposition" (developers words to the MPSC not mine)
    So much for "vocal minority" (your words not mine)
    The developers left with tails between their legs.
    Its about time!!!

  4. i will always support solutions to sustainability requiring human invention technology and the desire to improve. most folks have know clue don't care as long as it satifies their individual needs. Modern means of energy production,wind and solar leave no lasting footprint and have become so common place in the world. Why is this? because coal and nuclear leave the most undesirable footprint including shortened lifespan and pollution. Evolution of design,chemistry and scientific facts are the ultimate driver to change. Right now wind and solar are the flavor until the next generations of innovators have a suitable solution to conquer are thirst for energy. From the industrialist michigander point of view renewables are a thing of beauty both big(make'em bigger)and small. The day is coming when the lakes will have there moment to contribute to all.