Initiative aims to amend Michigan’s Constitution to increase green energy.

10 Feb 2012

A coalition of clean energy advocates by the name of “Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs” is gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would amend Michigan’s Constitution to raise the State’s renewable energy standard (“RES”) to 25% by 2025.  The State’s current RES, enacted by statute in 2008, requires 10% of Michigan’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2015.  According to most reports, the utility companies will comfortably achieve the current 10% requirement by 2015 (currently, renewable sources account for around 4% of the State’s electric supply).

The coalition has until July 9th to gather 500,000 signatures to file the petition with the Secretary of State. If approved, Michigan voters will vote on the initiative in this year’s November 6th elections.  The coalition claims that the amendment, which would be Section 55 of Article IV of the State’s Constitution, would, among other things, (i) bring in around $10 billion of investment to Michigan, (ii) help the State’s clean energy production without significantly increasing energy prices for consumers (the ballot proposal limits how much utilities could raise rates on consumers), and (iii) reduce pollution and protect State’s natural resources.

A 25% RES would immediately shoot Michigan into the top tier of state renewable energy targets nationwide. Only Hawaii (40 percent by 2030), California (33 percent by 2020), Colorado (30 percent by 2020), New York (29 percent by 2015), and Connecticut (27 percent by 2020) have higher goals (and 6 other states have 25% targets by 2025).

I’m all for more renewable energy in Michigan (the State currently sends $1.8 billion to other states to import coal for our energy needs), and 25% by 2025 may be doable, but I’m not sure that a simple “yes or no” ballot initiative is the way to go about it.  If passed, the increased standard would force utility companies to buy more expensive renewable energy but prevent them from passing the increased costs along to consumers.  Electricity rates are a complicated matter and are set by the Michigan Public Service Commission.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that this initiative would end up in a legal mess similar to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act passed by ballot initiative in 2008.  What do you think?

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