Michigan residents to vote on RPS ballot measure

By Erin Voegele | October 11, 2012

On Nov. 6 residents of Michigan will have the opportunity to vote on a proposal that aims to amend the state constitution to establish a new standard for renewable energy. The proposal would require electric utilities to provide a minimum of 25 percent of their annual retail sales of power from renewable sources by 2025. The renewable power can be sourced from a variety of projects, including biomass, wind, solar and hydropower.

According to the proposal language, the measure would place a 1 percent per year limit on electrical rate increases triggered specifically from compliance with the standard. Rates could still increase at higher percentages for reasons other than renewable portfolio standard (RPS) compliance. In addition, the proposal would allow for annual extensions of the deadline for meeting the 25 percent standard if needed to prevent rate increases greater than the 1 percent limit. Finally, the proposal would require the legislature to enact laws to encourage the use of Michigan-made equipment, as well as employment of Michigan residents.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has spoken out against the proposal in a video statement posted to his website. “While this sounds like good public policy, I don’t believe it is,” said Snyder in the statement. In the video, he notes that Michigan already passed legislation calling for 10 percent renewables by 2015. “We’re making progress on that, but we still have a couple more years to go, and we’re learning a lot, and that’s the right time to make an assessment—in 2015 as to where we should go next,” he said. Snyder also stresses that he doesn’t think this type of measure should be added to the state constitution. “We shouldn’t but something in our constitution in a fashion like this, particularly when we lack a national energy policy,” he continued. “If we don’t know what the federal government is going to do, do we want to have our hands tied by what we’ve done in our constitution, rather than making good calls and judgments as time passes? We should encourage energy conservation, and renewables, and all those things, but this just isn’t the right way to do it.”

Alternatively, former Michigan Gov. Bill Milliken, who held office from 1969-1983 and is the state’s longest-serving governor, has enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, noting that the measure could make the Michigan a leader in clean energy manufacturing.

“I think the opportunity of renewable energy in Michigan is important enough that the 25 percent renewable policy should have the long-term certainty of Constitutional protection,” Millken said in a statement published by Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs, an organization advocating for the proposal. “Two things we can count on are that the wind will continue to blow and the sun will keep on shining. And unlike the volatility and uncertainty of energy prices from coal, oil, and natural gas, we can confidently forecast the cost of renewable energy, which is steadily declining and already competitive with coal and other fossil fuels.”

“When I served as governor, I worked to unite the many voices of Michigan around a shared vision for our state’s people, economy, and environment. That kind of collaborative spirit is hard to come by these days in Lansing. As a result, an important issue like how we generate electricity to keep the lights on in our homes and run our businesses lacks a clear vision for the future. And that means Michigan is falling behind other states when it comes to harnessing clean, renewable energy from the sun and wind, and the important jobs that this emerging sector can create,” Milliken continued.

Additional information on the proposal can be found at the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs website, and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan website.