Coalition opposes ballot proposal

Published 3:15 pm Monday, September 17, 2012

Boone Newspapers photo/ERIC JOHNSON Wind turbines dot the rural landscape in southern Minnesota. A Michigan ballot proposal Nov. 6 is requiring a 25 percent renewable electricity source mandate by 2025.

The Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) coalition is touring the state to encourage citizens to vote “no” on the “25x’25” proposal on the ballot Nov. 6.

A 2008 energy reform law requires Michigan to produce 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. A proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot, “Proposal 3” — one of six state proposals on the ballot — would require 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.

The primary problem CARE has with this proposal is it will be written into the state’s constitution.

Ken Sikkema, former Republican Senate majority leader and current senior policy fellow with the Public Sector Consultants think tank, says including this proposal in the constitution means only voters would have the ability to remove it.

 “A lot of this is about the constitution,” Sikkema said. “If it was a legislative proposal, I would argue, let’s get to the 10 percent first.”

About 2 percent of Michigan’s electricity came from renewable resources in 2008; today, it is at 6 percent.

The Michigan Public Service Commission monitors the law. All utilities — including municipality-operated utilities and cooperatives — must report annually to the commission.
“It’s quite aggressive when you start at 2 percent,” said Sikkema, of Grand Rapids, who is critical of the proposal because it does not address how it will be paid and its reliability.

“There’s no plan on how to fund this,” Sikkema said. “There’s no plan on what happens if the wind doesn’t blow.”

Michigan’s wind efficiency is at about 35 percent, meaning the wind is strong enough to operate a turbine 35 percent of the time. “25x’25” does not address what backup resources will be used when the turbines are not operating.

“Let’s get to the 10 percent in 2015 and then re-evaluate the situation,” Sikkema said.

“Just to lock in an arbitrary number in the constitution, we think is a mistake.”

It would cost an estimated $12 billion to build the wind farms needed to fulfill the “25x’25” goal, he said.

Michigan has about 300 wind turbines; 300 more will be needed to meet the 10 percent renewable energy mark by 2015.

CARE alleges the 25 mandate, with just wind energy, would require as many as 3,100 turbines, which would require nearly 500,000 acres of land.

Sikkema said U.S. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the congressional energy committee, shares CARE’s “reservations on mandates that aren’t flexible. I think our thoughts are very similar to his.”

Thirty states have renewable portfolio standards (RPOs), including Michigan; 10 states have reached 10 percent. The states’ standards vary by percentage and deadline. None, however, have included RPOs in their constitution.

CARE began running TV ads Wednesday encouraging voters to vote against the proposal. It has gained the support of nearly 200 organizations and individuals, including chambers of commerce, local governments, Michigan Farm Bureau and labor organizations.