Michigan voters have the power to change energy policy

This year, Michigan voters have the power to decide where their power will come from in the future.

A ballot initiative known as Proposal 3 would require Michigan to get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

“We support renewable energy, it belongs as part of our energy portfolio, but it has to be done in a reasonable and balanced way cause at the end of the day the ratepayers are going to pay the cost,” said Patty Nowlin of Midwest Energy Cooperative.

The Michigan legislature has already imposed a requirement that 10 percent of Michigan’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015.

Steven Transeth of CARE (Clean Affordable Renewable Energy) says increasing the requirements would cost some $12 billion. “If you take just sheer math and you take $12 billion this thing is going to cost, you divide it by the 4.8 million customers; it comes out to about $2,511.40 cents if you do the math properly so it’s going to be expensive.”

Rob Sisson is the President of Conserve American. He spoke to News Center 16 over the telephone today from Sturgis, arguing that the status quo also carries a price tag. “Here in Michigan, our two largest utilities raised rates over 13 percent this year, and their applications to the Michigan Public Service Commission identified higher, increasing cost of transporting coal into Michigan as the reason they need to increase their rates.”

To Sisson, speeding up the conversion from coal to wind power is just good common sense. “Wind energy today, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission is far less expensive than energy from new coal plants and about two thirds of our coal plants in the Midwest will need to be replaced in the next 20 years, I mean this is just common sense, almost a no brainer, let’s build out infrastructure that we’re going to be faced with in the future.”

Sisson says Michigan is simply being asked to do now, what Illinois has already done. “Nearest to us is Illinois that passed the 25 percent requirement in 2007, this year the Illinois Power Agency reported that substantial decreases in electricity prices are directly attributed to the diversification of the electricity market in that state and this year the number one sector for job growth in Illinois is in the clean and renewable energy sector.”

Nonetheless, a southwest Michigan coalition of community, business and government leaders today came out publicly in strong opposition to Proposal 3, saying the increased requirements would call for the construction of some 3,000 new wind turbines.

“We can't all say no, they're going to have to go somewhere, and over 3,000 turbines, a little over 80 counties, you can do the math, its 35 to 40 turbines per county and where we going to put ‘em?,” said Berrien County Commissioner David Pagel.

The coalition today claimed that almost 90 percent of the funding for the pro Proposal 3 campaign comes from out of state interests. “And that’s really the problem with special interests trying to hijack our constitution, ultimately it’s special interests out of California, San Francisco specifically, that are trying to hijack the Michigan constitution with flowery language that's supposed to sound great,” said Mich. Sen. John Proos, (R) St. Joseph.

While Sisson admitted there were a number of foundations funding grass roots groups involved in the ballot initiative, he points out “over 500,000 citizens signed petitions and the grass roots coalitions in Michigan range from hunting and fishing groups to health care groups like nurses associations and doctors, things like that.”

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