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For a clean energy future, vote yes on Proposal 3!

MEC OPINION

Michiganders have an historic opportunity to move our state into a future of clean, Michigan-made energy by adopting the 25 by 25 renewable energy initiative. 

Proposal 3 on your ballot this November requires Michigan’s electric utility companies to generate one-quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. 

Voters should adopt the initiative. 

It’s a direct path to a more secure energy future that engages and employs thousands of Michiganders, reduces our crippling reliance on expensive out-of-state fuels and protects the environment and public health. 

It will also be a gift to future generations, providing an electric system that is more stable and predictable because it isn’t hostage to dirty, expensive fossil fuels and their attendant price spikes. 

The proposal makes so much sense it has generated broad support from a growing chorus of important allies. Republicans and Democrats, health professionals and trade unions, business owners and energy entrepreneurs have all stepped up to the plate for Proposal 3. 

Even with widespread support, 25 by 2025’s passage is no sure thing. The expected antagonists are pouring millions of dollars into Michigan to confuse and scare voters. 

Do not be afraid. Do not be misled. Do not be fooled. 

The naysayers—led by our state’s utility companies—have a vested but selfish interest in perpetuating the same dirty system that has relied primarily on coal to provide Michigan electricity for more than a century. That may be working for their shareholders and for coal companies in other states. But it is not working for Michigan. 

Not for our households or businesses that bear the brunt of rising fuel costs. Not for children hospitalized with crippling asthma conditions or fisheries poisoned by mercury. It is not working for our college students training in the emerging clean energy field who find their best job opportunities are in states with more progressive energy policies. 

Coal—which currently fuels 60 percent of Michigan’s electricity—gave rise to the Industrial Revolution, powered the state’s storied automotive industry, and has been the workhorse of a reliable grid that provides the on-demand electricity we take for granted. 

But coal energy is old energy. It’s increasingly expensive, and dependence on it is holding Michigan back. During just the last four years, the cost of coal delivered to Michigan has increased 71 percent. We are sending $1.5 billion each year to other states to buy coal (Michigan has none of its own) from other states, supporting their economies rather than our own. 

At the same time, renewable electricity costs have dropped dramatically. Those trends—coal costs rising and renewable costs dropping—are expected to continue and alone are a compelling reason to vote yes. 

The 25 by 2025 initiative won’t eliminate coal. Nor will it eliminate Michigan’s nuclear power plants or slam the door on electricity generation from natural gas. But it will engage the state’s power providers in moving Michigan into the modern energy era, where power generation sources are cleaner, systems more diverse and costs more predictable. 

Imagine for a moment your retirement portfolio. Would you want 60 percent of your investments tied up in one risky stock (coal) with an uncertain future? Or would it make sense to offset some of that risk with a more stable, less risky investment with a more predictable future? 

That, in a nutshell, is what 25 by 2025 does. 

It will continue the momentum generated by Michigan’s existing renewable energy standard, which will be met in 27 months. It was passed by the Michigan Legislature in 2008 and requires 10 percent renewable electricity generation by 2015. 

That target has been a success more spectacular than even its most ardent advocates had dreamed of four short years ago. Costs to consumers are dropping, implementation is on schedule, and dire warnings of grid disruptions have proven groundless. We can do more. In Iowa, renewable energy generates 23 percent of the state’s electricity with no significant grid disruptions. 

Other states have had similar experiences. Many of them have already improved their renewable standards to reflect that success. Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota all have 25 percent standards in place. 

But in Michigan, our legislature is seemingly deaf to the economic sensibility of a diversified energy mix. There are even bills proposing to eliminate the current renewable standard and go back to more expensive fuels. 

Gov. Rick Snyder opposes such extreme proposals, but has been disappointingly indifferent to the opportunity to be a leader on energy policy. 

In this vacuum of leadership, voters must step in. Vote yes for more Michigan-made clean energy and good jobs. Vote yes on Proposal 3.
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