Traverse City News and Events

Clean Energy Takes Center Stage At TC Conference

By Beth Milligan | June 21, 2018

An estimated 200 national and local clean energy industry leaders and supporters will converge in Traverse City starting tonight (Thursday) for a three-day conference aimed at boosting Michigan investment in renewable energy. The event will also feature a public expo Saturday providing family-friendly activities and activities highlighting clean energy technology.

The Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities is convening the second annual Michigan Clean Energy Conference & Expo (MCECE), bringing in more than 50 speakers and moderators to Traverse City to discuss renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the future of mobility – including keynote speakers from General Motors, Microsoft, and Walker-Miller Energy Services. The conference is designed to “mobilize clean energy investments in Michigan homes, businesses, and communities” and help attendees “connect, collaborate, and celebrate Michigan’s bright clean energy future,” according to the Groundwork Center.

The MCECE kicks off tonight with a summer solstice party at The Little Fleet from 4pm to 6pm. The event – free to conference ticketholders – will gather “local energy and mobility champions on the evening of the longest day of the year to celebrate the solstice, share clean energy victories from the past year, and launch ambitious plans for the future.”

The centerpiece of the three-day event, the MCECE conference, will take Friday from 8am to 6pm at the Hagerty Center. Multiple keynote addresses, breakout sessions, and panels will cover a range of topics including the future of mobility with electric cars and on-demand transportation, how farmers are powering their operations with solar energy, efficiency solutions for low and middle-income homes, solar projects in schools, energy cost-savings for businesses, and the future of utility companies. Registration for the conference (now closed) is $100, with discounts offered for students and nonprofits and free admission for expo volunteers.

Carla Walker-Miller, founder and CEO of Detroit-based Walker-Miller Energy Services, will provide the opening keynote at the conference, talking about how to “transform lives by offering innovative urban waste reduction solutions.” Ken Davies, director of renewables for Microsoft, will join a panel of guests that also includes local renewable energy developer Marty Lagina and Chief Development Officer Jim Howell of sPower to discuss the rapidly declining cost of clean energy options. Meanwhile, GM Director of Renewable Energy Al Hildreth and leaders from DTE and Consumers Energy will share stories on how corporations and utilities are increasingly embracing aggressive clean energy commitments.

“I think goals for this conference and expo are to show our region just how big and fast renewables and energy solutions and electric mobility solutions are growing,” Groundwork Center Clean Energy Program Director Dan Worth tells The Ticker. “And then also to show the rest of these folks coming from GM and Consumers Energy and other spots just how exciting our local work is here. (We’re) then connecting to find solutions that make things cheap and big, while also keeping value and dollars local. That’s sort of the theme of the whole (event).”

The public can still get in on the event action at the free Michigan Clean Energy Expo Saturday from noon until 5pm at Northwestern Michigan College’s Aero Park Campus at 2600 Aero Park Drive. The event will feature family-friendly activities provided by the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum, as well as demonstrations from exhibitors and sponsors on renewable technology and education, training, and job opportunities. Michigan Saves, a state-sponsored organization designed to help homeowners purchase clean energy, will be on-hand to discuss financing options available to Michigan residents. The expo aims to highlight a range of “clean energy possibilities for your home, business, and lifestyle,” according to the Groundwork Center.

The MCECE comes on the heels of multiple renewable energy projects gaining traction in Traverse City, including a commitment by city commissioners to power 100 percent of city buildings with renewable energy by 2020. Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) and other area utilities are near to meeting a state mandate to purchase at least 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by early 2019, while Cherryland Electric Cooperative recently met its renewable energy program goal, increasing its solar by 700 percent to almost 2.8 megawatts in 18 months. TCL&P also recently rolled out a voluntary green pricing program for consumers, allowing residents to purchase anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources at a surcharge of $.0085 cents per kilowatt hour.

Residents, environmental leaders, and state clean energy representatives have encouraged city officials to continue embracing renewable solutions for the community. “The old arguments that clean (energy) is too expensive are now a thing of the past,” Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) Co-Chair Greg Reisig told TCL&P board members at a recent meeting. “Clean energy lets us power the world without destroying it.”

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