Legislators, conservative and energy industry leaders discuss technological innovation, polling, and policy at 4th annual conference

LANSING – The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum’s (MCEF) 4th Annual Catalyst Conference, “The Truth About Renewable Energy”, held yesterday at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing, engaged various energy, business, and conservative leaders in a conversation on the common myths and misconceptions of clean energy.

“Clean energy industries like wind, biomass, hydro, solar, and landfill gas are already paving the way for a bright energy future in our state,” said Larry Ward, MCEF executive director. “These industries are supporting Michigan communities, powering homes, schools, and businesses, and creating local jobs that can’t be outsourced. While misconceptions about renewable energy abounds, MCEF is committed to working with legislators, the Michigan Public Service Commission, business leaders, and fellow conservatives to promote smart conservative solutions that establish our state as a national leader in the energy transformation that is underway.”

The conference featured a panel of representatives from the solar, wind, biomass, and landfill gas industries, including: Casey May, Director of Market Development at Cypress Creek Renewables; Brad Pnazek, Senior Development Manager at Tradewind Energy; Gary Melow, Director of Michigan Biomass; and Jim Grant, North America CEO at Energy Developments Ltd.

Presenters spoke about the technological innovation taking place in energy markets, the importance of diversifying our energy resources, and how renewables can – and do – positively impact electric rates, reliability, and the state economy.

“In many markets across the country we have grid parity, meaning solar on its own can compete and even beat the economics of more traditional generation sources,” said Casey May, Director of Market Development at Cypress Creek Renewables. “It is a common misconception that renewables – and solar in particular – are a liberal issue, or off limits for conservative discussion. It is not a liberal issue. In reality, it can’t be; it’s a story of American achievement and innovation – and I would argue is wholly bipartisan.”

May added: “Utility scale solar developers – we’re not guaranteed any rate of return, unlike the traditional utilities. We are taking on that risk to compete, all the while investing, providing lease income to families across the state, across the country, we’re stabilizing farms. And this is happening in rural America. We are investing millions and millions of dollars in places that have missed out on a lot of the investment and economic growth that has happened over the last three decades. The inertia is there and conservative principles are at the heart of this.”

Representative John Reilly (R – 46th district) touched on the topics of energy innovation, market access, and competition in his remarks, as well as what the House Affordable Energy Caucus will set out to do in 2018.

“Ultimately economics leads policy progress, not politics,” said Reilly. “Propping up monopolies is trying to make war with nature.”

State Senator Mike Shirkey (R – 16th district), member of the Michigan Senate Energy and Technology Committee, delivered the keynote address in which he shared his personal experience with renewable energy technologies and his views of how the state legislature and regulators can forge ahead with future energy policy that is efficient, effective, and protects ratepayers.

“I’d like to change the theme for today to dispelling the myths of resisting technological change,” said Shirkey. “Change is hard, but the alternative of resisting change – the costs are too high. We can choose to try to preserve our comfort zone and preserve the status quo. But I believe what we should be doing is embracing and exploiting – and exploiting in a completely positive way – the opportunities represented by technology today, particularly in the energy field.”

Shirkey added: “The longer we resist change in this arena the more dangerous, the more costly, and the less competitive we will be driving ourselves to.”

The conference also featured a presentation from Mark Pischea, president of the Conservative Energy Network (CEN), on new national energy polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies. The CEN poll found that Republicans across the country, especially Trump voters, support the transition to cleaner forms of energy like solar.

MCEF promotes an “all of the above” approach to energy production that emphasizes a transition to cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient sources that will stimulate the state economy, create jobs, and increase our national and grid security.

The event also featured an awards ceremony recognizing various energy industry and policy leaders:

  • The Legislative Champion Award was presented to Representative Tom Barrett for his promotion of conservative legislative solutions to protect ratepayers and property rights for residential solar generation.
  • Former executive director of the Michigan Agency of Energy, Valerie Brader, received the MCEF Clean Energy Champion Award for her exceptional work in helping to craft the state’s 2016 historic, bipartisan energy legislation that increased our commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • Michigan Biomass director Gary Melow also received the Clean Energy Champion Award for his instrumental work to protect Michigan independent power producers and promote conservative and common-sense solutions for homegrown, baseload, and clean power.
  • The inaugural class of MCEF Youth Fellows were formally recognized, and outgoing MCEF Leadership Council Member and Board President Mark Huizenga, mayor of Walker, MI, received the Founder’s Award for his outstanding service as a founding member of the organization.

“We are witnessing a revolution in our energy markets, driven by the cost competitiveness of clean energy,” said Mark Huizenga, outgoing MCEF Leadership Council Member, Mayor of Walker, MI, and owner of Key Green Solutions. “Despite the positive changes we have seen in our economy, security, environment, and health from the growth of renewables, there are still those who choose to perpetuate misconceptions about clean energy, or those who seek comfort in the status quo. Today’s conference seeks to clear up the common misbeliefs about renewable energy, and spark an honest dialogue about the energy transformation taking place throughout our state, country, and the world, and how legislative and regulatory solutions, in conjunction with a more open and free market, are driving these changes right here in Michigan.”

Ward concludes: “Clean energy truly is the future. But we must be smart and diligent in developing policy solutions and encouraging technological innovation that spurs job creation, attracts investments, lowers rates, protects our grid and national security, and conserves our natural resources. I hope the conversations we had today serve as a catalyst over the next year, helping to bring that next big policy idea or technological development closer to fruition.”

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About MCEF: The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum is an organization comprised of conservatives who believe that Michigan should adopt a true “All of the Above” energy policy that includes an increase in our commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency.  MCEF believes encouraging diverse and clean energy production and reduced energy waste will create jobs and stimulate Michigan’s economy, reduce our reliance on foreign energy, improve our national security, and protect our valuable natural resources. http://www.micef.org/

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