Sierra Club to BWL: Pick up the pace

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The Lansing Board of Water and Light recently announced its Eckert Power Plant will be shut down by 2020. That means 40 percent of the utility’s energy will come from clean, renewable sources. But some don’t think BWL is moving fast enough. The Sierra Club has been very vocal on this issue, releasing a poll Friday that the club says backs them up: BWL needs to be more aggressive.

“Changing the game plan and how the utility actually functions to make sure the lights stay on,” explains Sierra Club Organizing Representative Brad van Guilder.

He says that includes a shift to renewables like wind and solar power. Natural gas is also a cleaner energy source, but van Guilder doesn’t trust that coal alternative.

“That’s putting a lot of risk on something that you cannot predict well into the future whether that’s going to be a viable option even 20 years from now.”

David Price, chairperson of the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s board of commissioners, says he’s focused on today.

“The Sierra Club agenda is the elimination of natural gas, of fossil fuels. We think that’s laudable and may be achievable down the road, but certainly not now. And our plan takes the reality of the present and moves us to the future.”

Price says with Lansing residents and commercial customers like General Motors, BWL needs to consistently deliver and he thinks some alternative energy sources aren’t reliable right now.

“The problem with wind and solar is you can’t store them. Say you’re not having a lot of usage but the wind’s really blowing… You can’t put that anywhere.”

Friday afternoon’s Sierra Club poll, with just over 400 people surveyed, seems to reflect this debate. A majority of people support both the BWL and Sierra Club proposals regarding the elimination of coal and the subsequent move toward renewables. However, by its counting, the Sierra Club has a bit more support for its own plan.

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