Ballot proposal would add new RPS to Michigan's state constitution

By Erin Voegele | October 11, 2012

While a great deal of our recent political/policy coverage here at Biomass Magazine has focused on the upcoming presidential election and the energy policies of each candidate, it’s important not to forget that American’s will be voting on far more than our next president on Nov. 6. Many will also be voting for state and local candidates, as well as ballot measures.

One such vote important to the renewable energy industry will be taking place in Michigan, where local citizens will have the opportunity to cast a vote on a ballot proposal to increase the state’s RPS to 25 percent renewables by 2025. The state already has an RPS in place that requires 10 percent renewables by 2015.

Unlike the existing RPS, which was enacted through the legislative process, the new ballot measure would actually amend the state constitution to include the 25 by 25 RPS.

The fact that Michigan residents are aiming to amend the state constitution, rather than push for a more ambitious program through legislation, is highly interesting. Bob Cleaves, CEO of the Biomass Power Association, told me today that that he thinks the vehicle of amending the constitution is probably bringing the proposed RPS under more scrutiny and introducing more controversy than legislative action would have.

I agree with him 100 percent.

Constitutional amendments can be very touchy, politically-charged matters. I think there is good reason for the hesitancy many people feel about altering their state’s constitutional law. For example, it’s not nearly as easy to tweak, alter, update or refine an amendment as it is to do so with law established by legislation. I think enacting a RPS requirement in this fashion could make it more difficult to allow the program to grow and mature over time, as it could be more difficult to adapt the program to take into account new technologies, industry practices, etc., in the future.

On the other hand, a ballot proposal ensures that the fate of the program will be determined by actual voters, rather than by politicians who sometimes put party loyalty over the needs and desires of the people they represent.

If the ballot proposal fails, I hope the program’s supporters are able to build support for a legislative solution.