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Ballot drive aims to let voters decide Michigan’s energy future

Jobs, health at stake in plan for 25 percent renewable electricity
Mastech Windspire turbine
One quarter of Michigan’s electricity would be generated from renewable sources by 2025 under a proposal that supporters hope to place on the November 2012 ballot. The state’s Board of Canvassers approved petition language for the issue on Jan. 20.

Now, the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs coalition needs to gather 322,609 petition signatures by July 9 to put the constitutional amendment before voters. The measure would continue the momentum created by the state’s current renewable energy standard, which requires that utilities generate 10 percent from renewable sources by 2015.

The Michigan Environmental Council supports the initiative and will be working to educate the public about its benefits, which include provisions encouraging the hiring of Michigan workers and capping utility rate increases related to the renewable goal at 1 percent annually.

Jeff Metts, president of Eaton Rapids–based wind turbine manufacturer Dowding Industries, said thousands of Michigan jobs would be created by the plan, which would generate “billions of dollars in investments” and “diversify our economy.” Metts is among business leaders, farmers, and public health advocates helping to promote the campaign.

The coalition estimates that a successful 25 percent renewable energy standard would bring $10 billion of investment to Michigan, keep taxpayer dollars here in our state, and create tens of thousands of jobs for Michigan workers in the fast-growing clean energy sector.

It would also help protect ratepayers from spikes and wild fluctuations in prices by diversifying the state’s energy grid. Costs for wind and sunlight will continue to be zero, compared to prices for coal delivered to Michigan, which have doubled since 2005.

The effort comes as renewable energy is gaining a solid foothold in Michigan. The state’s utilities reported late last year that they are on schedule to meet the 10 percent goal by 2015. And the cost of electricity produced by wind turbines has dropped dramatically in the past several years. It is now more affordable than electricity from a new coal-fired power plant would be, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Chris Kolb, president of the Michigan Environmental Council, said a successful initiative would position Michigan to be a global leader in the burgeoning renewable energy industry. He pointed out that Michigan already has more than 240 companies engaged in making components for wind and solar facilities, according to a 2011 report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center. Those companies employ more than 10,000 workers, and that number is growing.

“This is a winning proposition economically, environmentally and public health-wise,” said Kolb. “We’ll be creating jobs in Michigan and sending fewer of our dollars out of state to buy dirty coal. We believe Michiganders are hungry for smart, clean, exciting economic opportunities, and this is one.”

The plan would move Michigan among the leading states in renewable energy. Other Midwest states moving forward include Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio—all with 25 percent goals for renewable electricity.

BY THE NUMBERS:
Facts on Michigan's 25x25 ballot initiative proposal

-Hugh McDiarmid, Jr.
RELATED TOPICS: renewable energy, wind power
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