Jennifer Granholm, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Energy, has received wide media coverage for her accomplishments in renewable energy (e.g., Michigan’s first renewable portfolio standard) and her high-profile work with the auto industry and electric vehicles. However, she has also had notable successes in another critically important area: energy efficiency.
As a two-term governor of Michigan, the first woman to hold that job, Granholm successfully pushed for the state’s first energy-saving targets for utilities, financing for energy efficiency building retrofits, and a climate action plan.
I worked on some of these efforts as a policy advisor to the director of Michigan's Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG) during a nine-month sabbatical from ACEEE in 2008-2009, so I can give firsthand testimony.
Utility energy efficiency programs
Governor Granholm worked tirelessly with a divided legislature (House-Democratic, Senate-Republican controlled) to establish, with bipartisan support, the state’s first energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) in 2008. The legislation (PA 295) created energy efficiency program savings requirements for electric and gas utilities, and enacted various regulatory reforms to make the programs feasible. This was a sea change for Michigan, which had not had any utility energy efficiency programs for the previous 10 years.
The effort was so successful that by the end of Granholm’s time in office, Michigan was cited as the “most improved state”’ in our 2011 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. This policy effort has stood the test of time as one of the best examples in the nation. In total since the passage of PA 295, Michigan’s energy efficiency programs (termed “energy waste reduction”) have invested more than $2.5 billion in energy efficiency measures and services, and will result in utility system cost savings to customers of more than $8 billion.
Energy efficiency financing
In 2009 under Granholm, DELEG applied for and received one of the largest energy efficiency grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), to design and implement a series of community energy efficiency retrofit pilot programs. Out of that effort grew a statewide nonprofit energy efficiency lending institution called Michigan Saves, which has facilitated more than $270 million in low-interest loans for more than 28,000 residential and small commercial energy efficiency retrofits. Just this month, Michigan Saves was cited by the Energy News Network as a great example of energy efficiency support that could be a model for the incoming Biden administration.
Through executive order in 2007, Granholm created the Michigan Climate Action Council (MCAC), a joint group of government, business, and other stakeholders, to develop a climate action plan for the state. It discussed and developed several energy efficiency and renewable energy goals and strategies. Planning objectives included statewide energy savings targets (ultimately achieved by the state’s first EERS described above) and the first renewable portfolio standard. Unfortunately, the MCAC was disbanded by the subsequent governor after Granholm left office in 2011.
Continued action on energy efficiency and climate
After her time in office, Granholm continued her commitment to energy efficiency and clean energy through the American Jobs Project a nonprofit, non-partisan effort she founded and at which she served as board chairperson. The group, which has since disbanded, focused on growing advanced energy economies in states using state-specific economic clusters around energy efficiency, renewables, and advanced manufacturing.
In summary, Jennifer Granholm is clearly a proven leader in clean energy, including energy efficiency. She knows how to work with government, business, labor, and other stakeholders to create American jobs—a critical skill for the incoming Biden administration intent on addressing climate change. We look forward to working with her.