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Snyder Embracing Energy-Efficiency

Posted to MichiganNow.org on Monday, December 31, 2012

INTRO: Energy issues sometimes get political. The problems seem urgent as TV stations give regular updates on gas prices. Energy policy was a main reason President Jimmy Carter was not re-elected. Even George Bush said “we’re addicted to oil.” Other than during the November presidential elections, politicians have left energy talk alone. Well now Michigan’s governor is talking about it. And he has a plan for you and your home. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus reports.

After Governor Rick Snyder signed Right to Work into law, every one of his policies can be seen as a political calculation. Conservatives and republicans have applauded his support of their agenda. Moderates and liberals have been upset. But about the same time right to work got moving, Governor Snyder chose a non-controversial subject to rally around.

“If you look at the pillars of reliability, afford ability and protecting the environment, the first one is something I mentioned during the last election cycle is the starting point for a discussion on energy. And that’s energy efficiency. The smartest thing we can do to begin with is how to better at not needing the energy to begin with because we’re doing better practices.”

For years, dozens of non-profit groups have been pushing for energy efficiency in Michigan. Hundreds of thousands of century old homes and offices are letting cold air in and warm air out. We’re fracking to keep natural gas prices down. The Michigan Public Service Commission says we’re spending $26 billion a year on all our fuels. All from out of state. Snyder’s top strategist helped organize the Better Buildings/Michigan Saves program. He taught the governor much of what he says here…

“Michigan Saves is a program that is a public/private partnership. It started with public dollars going into it. But now it’s actually leveraging private financial institutions making loans to families and people to be more energy efficient. It’s a great opportunity.”

In May 2010 the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report titled, Burning Coal, Burning Cash: Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal. Michigan was the seventh most coal dependent state in the country, spending $1.4 billion on coal imports a year.

Snyder adds: “we’ve had over 1,700 Michigan families take advantage of it. On average they’re saving about $350 a year. Isn’t that a win for all of us?”

Since the governor spoke, Michigan Saves/Better Buildings has signed up 2,700 people in metro Detroit and 6,500 in the whole state. It’s a federally funded program could end in February. So you’ll have to contact them fast. Snyder hasn’t said how long he can keep Better Buildings going.

“The real question is how do we scale the program up. We have a lot more than 1,700 family units in Michigan. In addition to that though let’s not just talk about families. Let’s talk about how that can apply to small business and how they can be involved in that process. So I really encourage you to look at programs like that.”

Jean Redfield was in the room for the governor’s energy and environment speech.  She is CEO of Next Energy, a think tank and business incubator near Wayne State University. Redfield explains how can the average woman or man get hooked into home energy efficiency.

“I think there are general rules that work well for everybody: the basics around lighting, the basics around up to date energy star appliances, the basics around sealing your windows and doors, getting an envelop that is leakproof. Those are all pretty basic and everybody can benefit from them.”

Pay $100 for an energy contractor to come to your house. He’ll explain your energy profile. The knowledge he passes on will stay with you, your kids and perhaps your house for the rest of your lives.

“Typically, they will come in and do the audit and walk you through what their recommendations are. They’ll tier the recommendations as the no brainers do it for sure, pay off is definitely there, the ones that require investment where you might need to take a loan out they will work with you about how much investment and how much savings you can expect to see so you can decide if the loan is worth it for you.”

This program hasn’t started fights or protests. Most any Michigander can be relentlessly positive about it.

ANCHOR TAG: To get a licensed contractor to come to your house anywhere in Southeast Michigan, click on mihomeenergy.org

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