Expanding the Renewable Portfolio Standard for Michigan: a Study

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University of Michigan Energy Institute

This study analyzes the real impacts of raising Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard - the policy mandating the percentage of the state’s electric generation capacity that must be provided by renewable power. The study, sponsored by the University of Michigan Energy Institute, analyzes several scenarios, detailing the changes to different power generation sources such as coal and natural gas, the environmental benefits to the state, and the associated costs under each.

Michigan’s Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act of 2008 mandated 10% renewable power generation by 2015. Twenty-eight other states have similar mandates. Amid intense lobbying and wildly varying cost estimates, Proposition 3, a 2012 ballot initiative to expand the mandate to 25% renewable generation by 2025, failed.

With the help of graduate student Joshua Novacheck, Johnson examined four scenarios for Michigan: 20% renewable power by 2030, 25% by 2025, 40% by 2035, and “business as usual,” a scenario with no change. The study found that the most cost-effective renewable resource in Michigan is onshore wind, although under the highest target there is also a significant contribution from utility-scale solar. 

Changing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard would also change the state’s output of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are associated with climate change, acid rain, and asthma. In the three RPS expansion scenarios examined, the state’s carbon intensity of power generation is reduced by 13%, 20%, and 33%, respectively. At present, more than half of Michigan’s power comes from coal, and the state’s asthma rate is higher than the national average.