Grand Rapids: Looking Locally at Renewable Energy in Michigan

photo: renewable energy Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids has been a leader in Michigan’s race to renewable energy. Since Public Act 295 was passed in 2008, utilities have been rushing to fulfill their obligation to generate at least 10% of their energy supply from renewable sources by 2015. To achieve this goal, utilities have been building wind turbines and solar arrays that supply renewable energy while providing jobs for the communities in which they are manufactured and built. As the push for renewable energy has heated up, we have also seen a significant decrease in its average price. Some cities, including Grand Rapids, have taken full advantage of this opportunity and have purchased significant quantities of renewable energy from their local providers.

Michigan is on track to achieve its renewable energy goal and beyond. Customers can purchase renewable energy directly through their energy utility in the form of "percent of electricity received" and through Green-e Certificate blocks which state that a person or organization has purchased a set number of wattage hours. Of that renewable energy purchased, about 94% is wind, 2% is solar, 2% is biomass and methane digesters and less than 1% is hydroelectric. In 2007 only 3.3% of electricity was supplied by renewable sources, six years later that number jumped to 8.4%. Meanwhile, the price of renewable energy has continued to decrease—making it a better and better alternative to expensive and dirty coal generation.

According to Optimal Energy Inc., an estimated 1,547 new Michigan jobs per year could be created in renewable energy from 2010 to 2015. Furthermore, almost $100 million would be invested in the state over the same time period.



Grand Rapids: Charging Ahead in Renewable Energy

Since passing Michigan's Renewable Energy Standard in 2008, the city of Grand Rapids has made strides in surpassing the 10% that is required of utilities in renewable sources. The city reached 25% renewable energy in 2013, exceeding their original goal of 20%. By 2020 Grand Rapids plans to reach 100% renewable energy.  In order to accomplish this goal, the city is looking into large scale projects in wind turbines and solar arrays as well as other means of becoming more energy efficient as a city. This would include the considering building their own municipal utility to supplement the renewable energy they receive for Consumers. Through the extension of Michigan's Renewable Profile Standard, Consumers would continue expanding on its renewable energy supplies making the process simpler for Grand Rapids.

Data made available from “Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions: Renewable Energy.” and "Energy Sources."

Helping to achieve this goal, Cascade Renewable Energy and SolarBOS Inc. are both contributing to improved economic conditions by providing clean energy to customers. Cascade Renewable Energy, based in Grand Rapids, currently employs 414 people in West Michigan and plans to create 183 more positions over a five year span from 2010 to 2015. In expanding their company, Cascade Renewable Energy will invest $2.8 million in the Grand Rapids area. SolarBOS Inc. is investing $884,000 to build a new facility and will hire 56 new employees. 

Grand Rapids: Exceeding its own Goals 


Grand Rapids has taken multiple approaches to reach and exceed its goals. Through Consumers Energy, the local supplier of energy for Grand Rapids, the city has been able to purchase enough renewable energy necessary to achieve their current energy goals. To help in funding this initiative, Grand Rapids has also received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in the amount of $1.9 million to offset expenses.

Approximately 15% of Grand Rapids municipal energy consumption has been purchased from Consumers at a discounted rate through Green-e Certificate blocks, and 5% has been purchased directly through Consumers Energy. Consumers currently provides the bulk of its renewable energy through wind production (75%) and landfill gas (25%).

In addition to purchasing renewable energy, Grand Rapids has engaged in energy efficiency programs through upgrading its infrastructure and vehicle fleets. For instance, the installation of double pane windows in City Hall is estimated to save the city nearly $40,000 annually. These changes will have a positive impact not only on energy consumption but also on city coffers. Upon completion of all upgrades (if staying on schedule with the Grand Rapids Sustainability Plan, upgrades should be completed by 2015), it is projected that the City of Grand Rapids could save just over $473,000 annually. These upgrades would allow Grand Rapids to produce 3,577 fewer tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

City Infrastructure Upgrade Highlights:

       · Replacement of single pane windows throughout city hall

       · Installation of geothermal heating in two of the cities fire stations

       · Installation of solar panels on the roof of the Water/Environmental facility

       · Installation of LED lights in all street lights to replace standard bulbs


Data made available from “Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy 2009.


       *Savings After Simple Payback Average is produced by multiplying the total savings per month and the average simple payback of 33.39 years.


      According to the Grand Rapids Director of the Office of Energy and Sustainability Haris Alibasic, such actions have lead to the private sector following suit and making energy efficiency a priority. Many local business have made decisions to build LEED certified buildings to help limited their carbon footprints.

Michigan: Renewables Looking Forward


      Michigan's Renewable Profile Standard (MRPS) is set to expire in 2015 and with it about the only hope of Michigan becoming an example to the rest of the nation for what can happen when you embrace renewable energy. In the brief time that the MRPS has existed, the price of renewable energy has dropped and the demand for dirtier forms of energy, such as coal, has decreased. MRPS has also created jobs to facilitate the building and maintaining of the developing industry. It is possible to reach 30% renewable energy by 2035 according to the Michigan Public Service Commission, but without the motivation that extending MRPS can provide, the market may not expand at a rate that could achieve this mark. By extending MPRS cities like Grand Rapids will have a better chance of achieving higher standards of renewable energy.