Renewable energy advocates in Michigan are conducting a signature drive so that an ambitious renewable energy mandate will make its way to the ballot for voters in November.
But the mandate has come under fire from a powerful group opposed not only to the signature drive, but to an increase in renewable energy in the state at all. The Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan Coalition (or CARE for Michigan) says that the proposed mandate will be far too costly for consumers.
Proponents want Michigan to up its renewable energy dependence to 25 percent by 2025–a pretty big jump from the bill passed in the state legislature 4 years ago that made a goal of generating 10 percent of the electricity from renewable sources by 2015.
Currently, Michigan is only at about 4 percent renewable energy total but the state’s two largest utilities, Jackson-based Consumers Energy and Detroit-based DTE Energy, say they are on track to make the 10 percent goal over the next few years. Both companies have been investing in wind farms as well as purchasing wind power from other plants.
“Our position is that the current standard is reasonable. It’s affordable for customers,” Consumers Energy spokesman Jeff Holyfield said in a statement last week. Holyfield added that the state should first fulfill the 2015 goal before pursue the larger, more ambitious mandate.
Green energy supporters say a big increase–like the so-called “25×25″ campaign–will not only reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, but will also generate jobs and promote environmental sustainability. The renewable energy industry already has some big supporters in Michigan; major companies like Power Panel Inc. and Dow Chemical Co. operate “green” businesses in the region.
The new energy policy would bring those companies in direct competition with coal and natural gas suppliers in Michigan. Those companies argue that an increased renewable energy mandate would be too costly to consumers–over $10 billion by the CARE for Michigan group’s estimates.
Renewable energy advocates are supported in Washington by several big environmental groups, including Clean Water Action. Clean Water Action says that other states, like Iowa for example, have been able to depend more on renewable energy without “significantly raising costs.” Iowa currently produces 21 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
If renewable energy advocates are able to collect enough signatures by mid-July, the measure will be on the ballot for voters to decide on in the fall. If approved, “the state’s energy providers would have to produce or purchase 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as biomass, hydro, solar and wind power, by 2025.”