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Michigan Supports Move from Coal to Solar and Wind

Cindy Kyle / IPPSR MSU
Arnold Weinfeld, Sharlissa Moore, Charles Ballard

Michigan residents support a transition from coal-fired energy to more solar and wind powered electricity, a new Michigan State University research report finds.

Public support of natural gas-generated electricity was more mixed, says MSU College of Engineering researchers who queried Michigan residents through a combination of interviews, focus group and general public attitudes.  

Ninety percent of the public says they support more solar power use in Michigan, reports researchers Sharlissa Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor in MSU’s James Madison College and College of Engineering and Annick Anctil, assistant professor and civil and environmental engineering in MSU’s College of Engineering.

Some 75 percent of those responding to the State of the State survey questions strongly support Michigan’s current plans to turn from producing 75 percent of its electricity from coal to other sources of energy in the next five years.

“As one interviewee put it, ‘The war on coal is over, and coal has lost,’” they write.

The numbers softened, to 86 percent, when survey respondents were asked to what extent they support more solar power plants built in Michigan, the researchers write in a paper published by MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR).

Moore and Anctil’s research combines a unique mix of in-person interviews with energy experts, focus group interviews and cell and landline interviews conducted during the fall 2017 State of the State Survey (SOSS.)

Moore and Anctil call for the state to develop better policies to promote renewable energy and take advantage of renewables’ promise of economic development, innovation and competitiveness.

The research was undertaken with support from IPPSR’s Michigan Applied Public Policy Research grant. IPPSR is a unit of the College of Social Science where it links public policy with political leadership and survey research.

At least 61 percent of the public, and 80 percent of those owning their own home, would be interested in leasing solar panels for the rooftops of their homes if they were “affordable and available,” the researchers found.

Michigan’s electric infrastructure is aging and the state has set a course to generate more power through renewable sources. The state’s major coal-fired power plants are due to retire within the next 20 years, and nuclear generators sooner, they say.

In other survey findings:

•           SOSS respondents support solar energy slightly more than wind. About 86 percent favor wind. Five percent strongly oppose the use of more wind energy. Three percent strongly oppose solar.

•           A majority, 56 percent, oppose more use of nuclear power.

•           A slim majority, 52 percent, support nuclear power when questions are asked about construction of generators described as “smaller, cleaner and do not use water.”

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