GRAND RAPIDS — Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer says West Michigan can “lead from the front” on renewable energy and battery storage, though he is withholding support for Democrats’ climate and clean energy proposals he believes lack details.
Meijer spoke via Zoom on a variety of environmental topics during a West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum event Monday afternoon in downtown Grand Rapids.
The first-term congressman, who replaced the former U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which often delves into research and development funding for clean energy technology and power grid technologies.
Meijer said the committee is “trying to set appropriate standards and regulations today that would allow us to have an energy grid well-equipped” to deal with technology changes amid “changing patterns on consumption and generation.”
“Everything we can do to increase the efficiency we have now will not only save consumers long term but also cut energy demand even as we continue to grow our economy,” Meijer said. “That’s where we’re strongly investing on the research side.”
However, Meijer cited a “number of issues of concern” with climate change plans released by the Biden administration and the Democratic-controlled House, including what he called a lack of spending details and bilateral agreements that would curb carbon emissions from China. The Biden administration, for example, has set a net zero emissions target by 2050, and wants to include hundreds of billions of dollars in climate-related spending in infrastructure and budget bills.
Mary Ellen Mika, director of global compliance and sustainability with Steelcase Inc. who also spoke at Monday’s event, noted the company’s support for the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“It’s an important way to address climate change in a time-efficient manner,” Mika said. “We need to do stuff and do it quickly.”
Mika said the company, which last year announced that it had reached net zero carbon emissions through renewable energy purchases and carbon offsets, also supports a federal price on carbon that would potentially direct new revenue to climate efforts.
Meanwhile, Meijer noted his support for keeping nuclear power plants online as a source of carbon-free, “base load” power to complement intermittent renewables like wind and solar.
“I’m very concerned about the ways in which we’re neglecting the long-term benefits of nuclear as a carbon-free energy generating opportunity. There are also opportunities with natural gas as a stable, base load generator as we shift away from coal,” Meijer said. “I’m a strong proponent of shifting to a more balanced energy mix.”
Meijer was also pressed during Monday’s event on how he would ensure funding from Biden’s Justice40 initiative would be directed to communities of color in West Michigan. The administration in July issued interim guidance that would deliver at least 40 percent of the “overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.”
“We don’t yet know what form this would take, how it would be funded and how it would be enacted,” Meijer said. “Our goal, as ever, is to be responsive to the community.”