Last week, a coalition of clean energy advocates announced a 2012 ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution to more than double Michigan’s existing state renewable energy standard (RES).
The Michigan Jobs, Michigan Energy wants to boost the amount of electricity utilities provide to their customers to 25 percent by 2025. The state’s current RES, enacted in 2008, requires utilities to provide at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2015.
In late 2011, less than four percent of Michigan’s electricity came from renewable energy sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
A 25 percent RES would immediately vault Michigan into the top tier of state renewable energy targets nationwide. Only Hawaii (40 percent by 2030), California (33 percent by 2020), Colorado (30 percent by 2020), New York (29 percent by 2015), and Connecticut (27 percent by 2020) have higher goals. Six other states have 25 percent by 2025 goals.
Coalition spokesperson Mark Fisk said that approving the measure “will create thousands of new jobs for Michigan workers” and “spark over $10 billion in new investment.” The coalition, which includes public health, labor and farming groups, wants to raise $1 million dollars and collect 500,000 signatures.
The proposal urges incentives to promote hiring Michigan workers and may help boost the state economy. “Billions of dollars in investments are going to come into this type of program here,” said Jeff Mettts, president of Michigan-based wind turbine manufacturer Dowding Industries. “I see it as a way to diversify.”
Measures are also included to protect consumers by capping utility rate increases related to meeting the target at one percent per year. But a spokesman for Michigan-based Consumers Energy said a jump to 25 percent combined with a rate cap would cause conflicting priorities for utilities. Consumers currently generates five percent of its electricity from renewables, and will generate eight percent when its first wind farm comes online this year.
Michigan’s power sector has been getting greener over time. From 2000-2009, state energy-related CO2 emissions have fallen 16.3 percent, from 196.9 million metric tons of CO2. Over that same time period, the state’s economic carbon intensity also dropped five percent. Both statistics are according to the U.S. EIA.
But beyond the environmental benefits of an RPS, electricity customers may actually wind up paying less on their utility bills as their power gets greener. A recent report found that, between 2005-2010, the five states with the highest volume of wind and solar saw the lowest increase in electricity prices.