Michigan voters could make Michigan the first and only state to make renewable energy mandates part of its Constitution if Proposal 3 is passed. Proposal 3 would require 25% of the electricity produced in the state to come from renewable sources — wind, solar, hydro and biomass — by 2025.
In less than two weeks, Michigan voters will decide on a hotly contested ballot initiative on whether the state should become the first in the country to enshrine a renewable energy mandate in its constitution, a move that backers say could put clean energy in the national spotlight.
The measure, known as proposal 3, would require that one-quarter of the electricity produced in the state to come from renewable energy sources by 2025. Michigan, a battle ground state in the U.S. presidential election, is already halfway to meeting its current mandate, passed in 2008 by the state legislature, to produce 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass by 2015.
Thirty states, including Michigan, have a renewable electricity standard in place but if the proposed amendment passes it would be the first time a renewable energy standard would appear in the constitution, making it difficult to strike down or alter. Proponents of the proposal have said taking the approach of including a renewable energy mandate in the constitution was necessary to ensure that popular support for green energy is not overshadowed by what they see as special interests in the state government….
Natural gas or nuclear for electric generation is not recognized as clean energy under this proposal, even though from an emissions standpoint, or course, both are.
The pricetag for taxpayers? $12 to 15 million in higher energy costs. That $12 billion burden doesn’t include interest, taxes and new transmission lines, Rep. Thomas Stallworth, minority chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee, told reporters. “New transmission lines to new renewable sources could add another $1 billion to $2 billion to the customer price tag for this costly mandate.”
Will voters understand why?
Like solar, wind power sounds free and natural, and is believed by some to be cost effective and low in carbon emissions. But facts are subborn things. For example, the Energy Policy study, The Limits of Wind Power, recently explained that wind is variable and unreliable and provides most of its output when electrical demand is lowest. That means, power companies have to build and maintain backup power plants to kick in when demand exceeds wind supply. Backup power makes wind significantly more expensive and backup power usually comes from fossil fuel generators, which effectively limits wind’s carbon-reducing potential. Low CO2 emissions estimates typically ignore the emissions that come from the need for backup power sources. And then there’s the need for costly transmission crisscrossing the state to bring the wind from its source back to the load.
“Very high wind penetrations are not achievable in practice due to the increased need for power storage, the decrease in grid reliability, and the increased operating costs. Given these constraints, this study concludes that a more practical upper limit for wind penetration is 10%.”
For Michigan residents, Proposal 3 will increase electricity costs by about 16.2%, according to a study by the Mackinac Center and Beacon Hill Institute. That translates to a $180 higher annual electric bill per household and $1630 for the average business.
It’s only logical that businesses wouldn’t be attracted to a state with higher expenses and burdensome regulations. The Michigan economy is expected to take a hit of $2.55 billion, along with a loss of $147 million in investments in the state and more than 10,000 job losses, said the study.
The measure is funded predominately by San Francisco-based Green Tech Action Fund and New York-based NRDC Action Fund.