Michigan families and buisnesses can’t afford costly energy proposal in constitution.
If renewable energy is good, then more renewable energy is better. Right? Well, not exactly.
Companies like DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have been spending billions of dollars in renewable energy – wind, solar and hydro – over the years to support existing power from traditional power plants.
But Michigan’s electric customers are likely to pay higher bills if a new ballot proposal on renewable energy passes on November 6. The proposal, which doesn’t have a name, but is commonly known as 25×25 – would require Detroiters and others around the state to pay the bill for as much as $12 billion dollars in new renewable energy facilities.
That’s why many government officials, labor and business leaders, and citizens groups are urging voters to reject the proposal in the November election. The proposal specifically calls for an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that would require 25 percent of the electricity produced in the state to come from renewable energy sources by 2025.
“This misguided ballot proposal would ask you to count on the wind blowing enough to power homes and businesses that serve the 10 million residents in Michigan,” said State Representative Thomas Stallworth (D – Detroit). “That’s a big risk.”
At DTE Energy, for example, the company has already been making significant strides towards reaching the renewable energy targets outlined in the comprehensive energy law passed in 2008. That law calls for utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2015.
Following two years of negotiations, the 2008 energy package was passed with bipartisan support. The measures helped set Michigan on an aggressive course towards incorporating renewable energy into the state’s overall energy mix, according to experts in the renewable energy space.
“We support the development of renewable energy in Michigan, but this proposal gets it all wrong,” said Irene Dimitry, executive director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables for DTE Energy. “It would cost customers billions, deliver little in terms of long-term jobs, and inject the 25-percent mandate into the Michigan Constitution, where it would eliminate the flexibility needed in the future to deal with volatile energy markets, changing consumer needs and new technologies.”
Former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court Conrad Mallett Jr. agrees. He recently expressed concern about how these kinds of proposals might produce unintended consequences that citizens of Michigan would have to live with in the future. In particular, he questioned whether the state’s Constitution is the most appropriate venue for energy policy to be addressed.
“Energy mandates shouldn’t be locked into the Michigan Constitution,” said Mallett. “Our Constitution is designed to establish basic rights, not to set detailed energy policy.”
Utility experts say higher rates would not be offset by the closure of other power plants and resulting cost savings, because traditional power plants would still be required to meet the state’s electricity needs on the days when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.
“Families and businesses in Detroit and throughout Michigan shouldn’t have to pay for this proposal, particularly since the state already has a good renewable energy plan,” Dimitry said.
Backers of the ballot proposal have made misleading statements about how many new jobs will be created. The proposal’s supporters claim that the 25-percent renewable energy mandate would create 94,000 jobs in Michigan alone. But, that claim has been disputed by a number of experts, including the federal government.
“The U.S. Department of Energy recently released a report on the American wind industry that debunks this claim,” Dimitry said. “The report shows that the entire wind energy industry across the United States directly and indirectly employs 75,000 workers. It’s wildly unrealistic to assume that our state alone would create enough jobs to more than double that number.”
For more information on the proposal, or to join others who oppose the proposal, visit the Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) for Michigan Coalition website at http://wwwcareformich.com/.
Sharon Emery is senior vice president of Truscott Rossman and a member of the CARE Coalition for Michigan.