Clevey Advocates for Renewable Energy

What is the Michigan Sustainable Energy Coalition?

Since 1999, I’ve worked with SBAM …which helps small businesses that are working in green technologies form and get money and grow. That’s what led me to the Michigan Sustainable Energy Coalition [which started in 2005]. I was one of the founding members …. The coalition is made up of businesses that are primarily involved in the manufacture and sale of renewable energy products. That also includes representatives from local governments seeking to attract green businesses to their area, and nonprofit organizations interested in promoting national security in Michigan. It has about 25 members.

What is the purpose of the coalition?

Its goal is to get legislation passed for a renewable energy portfolio standard. It would require that a certain percentage of electricity sold in the state is being generated from renewable energy sources, for example the Lansing Board of Water & Light’s Green Wise program. They sell green power generated from Granger’s biofuels. We want to see that model required across the state in every utility, primarily Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy. The utility companies believe that we need another 20 or more coal-fired plants in Michigan by 2025 to meet Michigan’s electricity needs. The renewable energy coalition believes that a substantial portion of that could be met with renewable energy and energy efficiency, rather than expensive and polluting coal-fired plants.

In Michigan, we currently export roughly $19 billion a year to import 95 percent of our energy. If we could generate power in the state, we would reduce the amount of energy we import from the Middle East and make our own economy stronger and our state more secure. Also, the quality of life would improve because renewable energy doesn’t create air and water pollution in the same way that fossil fuel plants do.

Why is SBAM involved in this?

SBAM believes there’s a lot of new industry, with economic benefits, from renewable energy, including businesses that manufacture and sell those products worldwide, new technologies, and new employment opportunities.

What are some of the challenges facing the coalition?

The main challenge is that the utility companies are not in the business of renewable energy and energy efficiency …. Utility companies in Michigan make money by building fossil fuel plants, generating energy and selling it …. They don’t make a profit when I use less energy because I use energy efficient products, and they don’t build wind farms …. This is not in their interest, so they are not supportive of it. One of the reasons they’re not supportive is that 85 percent of Detroit Edison’s stockholders don’t live in Michigan versus most renewable energy and energy efficient companies in the state, which are privately held companies employing Michigan citizens, so they are very interested in … generating money that will stay in Michigan. The utilities import fuel and export their profits.

Does the coalition work with other organizations?

We work with the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, and their members are made up of these green businesses from all across the state. We also work with a group called the Michigan Independent Power Producers Association, and their members include hydroelectric companies …. These organizations that represent small businesses that cover the whole state, including the Upper Peninsula, come together in Lansing.

What are some examples of what companies in Michigan are doing?

Granger is a perfect example of a Michigan company that is diversifying. They are basically a waste company that has figured out a way to convert this waste into an asset that is not only good business, but great public policy …. We could be generating 14 percent of Michigan’s energy needs just by what Granger does. They do this through a municipal utility, and a renewable energy portfolio standard would make it possible to do this with all utilities. Recently, Ford Motor Company announced a new technology where they’re burning paint fumes and generating electricity …. and Wal-Mart has announced that they’re going to put wind farms on their stores, so that market is going to explode.

Why is Michigan conducive to these initiatives?

Michigan is fairly unique in that we are a durable goods manufacturing state. We generate lots and lots of heat and waste, and we also have the capability to generate electricity easily. We could be an assembly state for wind machines. Right now, 15 percent of the parts that go into a wind farm are manufactured in Michigan. The estimate is that 80 to 90 percent of the parts could be from Michigan companies, and wind is the fastest growing energy source in the world, so we have an opportunity to be the world manufacturing center. So if we use renewable energy here, that makes the market better for companies that want to come here and hire Michigan employees and manufacture products and export them worldwide.

General Electric is the largest wind manufacturer in the world, and they want to build new manufacturing plants to [make] the parts that go into a wind machine. [In Michigan], we are experts at turning raw materials into durable goods …. Renewable energy is an industry that Michigan could own, and SBAM is aggressively promoting that idea.

What is an emissions credit?

Part of what’s driving this market is that companies who use renewable energy and energy efficiency generate an emissions credit, which can be traded on an international stock market, basically for money.

What are all of the benefits of renewable energy?

Renewable energy is less expensive than fossil fuels. It doesn’t generate the pollution, which is a tax in the form of higher healthcare costs and to clean up our rivers and air. Most importantly, fossil fuel is imported from nations that don’t support our democratic values, so this is a national security issue. We need to use energy more efficiently and start generating it locally with cost effective technologies like renewable energy.

Author: Christine Caswell
Photography: Terri Shaver


Name: Mark H. Clevey

Positions: Vice President, Entrepreneurial Development Center, Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM); Executive Director, Small Business Foundation of Michigan; Vice Chair, Michigan Sustainable Energy Coalition

Resume: U.S. Air Force, 1967-71; since 1975, working in renewable energy and energy efficient initiatives and research and development, including the Kalamazoo Public School District, and teaching at Lansing Community College, Oakland Community College and Macomb Community College; started at SBAM in 1999

Hometown: Grew up in the Lansing area

Family: Two daughters

Residence: Farmington Hills

Activities: On the Board of Advisors for the National Science Foundation, the Lawrence Technical Institute and Western Michigan University (WMU)

Award: Faculty of the Year at Oakland Community College, 2006

Education: Master’s degree in Public Administration and BS in political science and education from WMU

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