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Posted on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

MLive Media Group: Vote no on Michigan's Proposal 3; renewable energy plan doesn't add up

By MLive Media Group

Thumbnail image for CornerBrew3.jpg

The solar panels at the Corner Brewery will be on display during the Solar Ypsi tour.

Voters should say no to Proposal 3, a revision to the state constitution that mandates at least 25 percent of our state's energy must come from alternative sources by 2025.

Although renewable energy is a worthy goal, this proposal is flawed because it handcuffs the state's economic and political future.

The proposal would replace current law that requires utilities like Consumers Energy and DTE Energy to generate 10 percent of their power from green sources by 2015. It lays out an unrealistic road map for that to happen, by capping increases to customer rates at 1 percent a year to pay for the projected $15 billion investment.

Who, then, would pay to build some 3,000 windmills in Michigan? The proposal's supporters don't say.

Most of the financial support for this proposal comes from out of state. Groups from California and New York are looking to profit or push their ideology on Michigan.

That, too, is where much of the money from the hoped-for investment in windmills and solar panels will go, to out-of-state companies that are selling their products.

Sure, jobs would be created, but there's nothing to keep that work or that money in Michigan's borders. The country that manufactures the most wind turbines is not the United States. It's China. With so much concern about federal debt being held overseas, it's hard to fathom approving a state constitutional amendment that would send our dollars across the Pacific, too.

But there is a more fundamental concern: This proposal rewrites the constitution. There is a reason no other state has enshrined a green energy standard in its constitution. It would be a mistake for Michigan voters to lock the state into a policy when no one can foresee the consequences.

The backers of Proposal 3 suggest aggressive action is necessary. They voice strong skepticism that state lawmakers, who put the 10 percent standard into place four years ago, would push Michigan to do more. That argument shows little faith in voters, as if they were incapable of electing representatives who back an environmental agenda.

And the proposal's boosters ignore that the current law and the market already are pushing Michigan toward more renewable energy. Windmills
and solar panels are becoming more affordable, and that will naturally drive Consumers Energy and DTE Energy to turn away from coal-burning plants. It shouldn't take action at the ballot box to get to a greener future.

Give supporters credit for good intentions if you will, but their method is wrong. This proposal does not add up. Some of the much-touted economic benefits will bleed out of Michigan. And the state constitution is no place for it.

Read complete coverage on Proposal 3

This endorsement is the opinion of the editorial board of MLive Media Group, the parent company of The board is made up of the company's executive leadership, content directors and editors who oversee the 10 local markets that make up MLive Media Group.



Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

Germany's share of renewable energy sources in overall electricity consumption rose to a record 26% for the first nine months of the year, German energy industry association BDEW said Monday. Wind power remains Germany's most important source of renewable energy, increasing its share to 8.6% for the first nine months of 2012 from 8% for the same period in 2011, it said. Solar PV extended its share to 6.1% (4.1%), ousting biomass on 5.8% (5.4%) from third place. Hydro power followed with a total share of 3.8%, while power from waste remained at 0.9%, it added. According to the BDEW data, solar output rose 50% to 24.9 TWh for the January-September period, while wind power output rose 8% to 35 TWh for the period. Total electricity consumption for January-September was 382 TWh, around 7 TWh or 1.8% less than for the same period in 2011, the BDEW said last week.

Steve Bachman

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

This reminds me of how nearly worthless the A2 News was. I think Prop. 3 raises really interesting questions and associated arguments, regarding "direct democracy" and how citizens can address long-term change in Michigan. Rather than delve into these questions and challenge readers to consider them, the article takes their usual lazy, "truthiness" approach. They state that it "doesn't add up", but don't present any quantitative analysis. They reference "out of state beneficiaries"..."looking to profit or push their ideology on Michigan.", but even if you follow the link to the associated article, they don't back up their claim of profiteering. All the underlying article says is: The proposal's largest contributor was the Green Tech Action Fund, which gave more than $1.3 million as of July 20. New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund gave $450,000, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters gave $275,000 and The Regeneration Project of San Francisco gave $100,000. That is simply a list of contributors and amounts, hardly evidence of profiteering or ideology-pushing. If these groups are indeed profiteering ideologues, the article should support the implication with a fact or two. But that approach would take a bit more work... Surprise: A lazy, careless print publication morphed into a similar online presence. I hope voters will think deeply about this proposal and educate themselves, rather than depend on this kind of unsupported surface treatment that Mlive and have crafted. It is hardly better than the one-sided mailers filling our boxes every day.

Robert Gordon

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 2:44 a.m.

Don, we know from other state's experiences that renewable energy will not substantially increase costs. Thus the one percent. But we cannot control coal, gas, or DTE's greed. DTE hiked prices 13.3% this year. The Public Service Commission does not seem to care. DTE cited rising coal prices to justify their rate increases.

Robert Gordon

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Don, if we wait for legislators to do the "right thing", we will always lag the rest of the country in clean energy development. DTE and CMS effectively own a majority of our state house and state senate, Democrats and Republicans alike. That is the reason for this petition. Like the other 32 that have passed since our current Constitution went into effect in the 1960's, it concerns an issue that the Legislature is unable or unwilling to consider. Michigan is not Iowa. On hot days air displacement occurs, creating lake winds. But your biggest hole is failing to consider that the 60% of Michigan's energy that comes from coal brings on billions in health care subsidies in Michigan and beyond. This is just not about dollars and cents, but if it were, wind and solar are far, far cheaper than coal.


Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

Mr. Gordon - We do? What we know is that the regulators in many states have held the prices down, not that prices did not rise, and that rates increases were not requested. Go check the proceedings from MidAmerican in Iowa and what they asked for in rate increases. Much of the DTE rate increase went to pay for a decrease in energy consumption (fewer kilowatt-hours but a fixed asset base means more money per kilowatt hour required to maintain the system). An additional part went to pay for new lines installed to collect the energy from the wind turbines installed in the thumb, costs that are outside the 1 percent per year increase that the proposal covers. This proposal has a built in 13 percent increase for the wind turbines and the solar cells. Then it does not cap rate increase for other reasons, like retirement of existing power plants, increase in retirement costs, as people retire earlier than they wanted to because their jobs were eliminated, or new storage systems to support the variable nature of wind and solar. The costs most of the pro-proposal 3 people are quoting are for capacity - not energy. Capacity is like the size of your fuse or breaker in your fuse box. It tells you the maximum amount of energy that can be made or used. Wind turbines do not make their maximum more than 80 percent of the time according to the system operator's historial records for Michigan, Solar cells don't more than 85% of the time. So we need to build storage facilities if we really are going to use 25 percent renewables. In Idaho this summer, the wind did not blow at all during a large number of the hottest days, so the wind turbines installed added nothing to the power supply at the time they were needed the most. Hot, still summer days. Idaho, according to the NREL maps has better wind resources than Michigan. This belongs in laws, not the constitution.

Robert Gordon

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

For how long are DTE and CMS going to be allowed to write energy legislation for the entire state? Isn't that like letting the fox rule the henhouse? Utility company lies, exaggerations, and fantasies are killing Michigan's effort to move into a healthier and less expensive energy future. And now, MLive comes up with a $15 billion price tag? Where did they get that from? Study after study, academic and anecdotal, shows creating clean energy within that 1% cap is obtainable. History shows that reliance on fossil fuels is a losers' proposition, with direct costs and health costs rising annually. Look at the facts and you will vote yes on 3.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Mr. Gordon - Please tell me how this is a cap? "Limit to not more than 1% per year electric utility rate increases charged to consumers only to achieve compliance with the renewable energy standard." This 1 percent increase limit applies ONLY to DIRECT costs of the renewables. We don't even know what will be considered direct costs. In whole, all the indirect costs and other costs of electricity can change by far more than 1 percent a year. The facts and your post do NOT match.

Jim Walker

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

When the costs come down on wind, solar and other green energy sources to match the costs of existing sources, they will become a larger part of our energy mix. Until then, forcing them to be a larger part of the mix before the technologies mature will just raise energy prices, something that a large portion of our citizens simply cannot afford. Vote NO on 3. James C. Walker, Ann Arbor, MI


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

The Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs ballot initiative is supported by more than 230 Michigan businesses, prominent Republican and Democratic leaders, unions, health professionals such as the Michigan Nurses Association, environmental groups, faith leaders and more. One of the most exciting benefits of the 25x25 goal is that it will boost our economy for years to come. According to a recent report by Michigan State University economists and academics, the 25 by 2025 proposal will create thousands jobs and generate $10.3 billion of private investment in Michigan's economy. Other benefits of the 25x25 campaign include: • It will spark development of more wind energy in Michigan, which as of July 1, 2012, had 487 megawatts of wind-powered electrical generating capacity online (enough to power more than 150,000 homes), with enough wind farms currently under construction to double that by the end of the year. • Passage of the ballot proposal is expected to drive development of another 4,500 megawatts of wind power in Michigan, a state with one of the top 20 wind resources in the country. • The 25 by 25 proposal caps any resulting electric rate increase at just 1 percent, providing a safeguard for Michigan electricity consumers. The fact that advocates of the proposal support this cap underscores that they believe the renewables requirement will not have a meaningful impact on rates. • It will also continue the growth of wind factory jobs in Michigan, which has fast become a manufacturing powerhouse for the industry. At least 31 businesses produced wind components in Michigan. For example, wind turbines are manufactured in Saginaw, and wind towers are now being made on a former brownfield site in Monroe. A "yes" vote on Proposal 3 means that Michigan is getting serious about protecting their citizen's health, improving their economy, and ensuring a clean energy future. David Ward, American Wind Energy Association


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

David Ward - I would expect better from AWEA. The rate cap in only on the DIRECT costs from this proposal, rate increases from any other reason will still end up being included in the rates. What is not determined is what is a direct cost and what is not from this proposal. Does transmission count as direct or indirect? Demand response, storage, and many other changes are not defined as direct or indirect. You and the organization you represent should be focused on getting the right laws passed that don't end up with this being tied up in court for years. The 1 percent direct cost cap means that we may never get to 25 percent in 2025, but rather it may be 2050 or 2060 to get there and there is no way to adjust this once it is in the constitution. I am ashamed that AWEA would make this their official position because of the misleading statements in this post.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Just about every argument in this proposal is flawed. 1. Funding for windmills and other sustainable energy sources would come from investors. This proposal makes these good investments. 2. The backers of this proposal, both in-state and out-of-state, are mainly non-profits, not "profiteers". The opposition, who is spending a lot more money (YOUR money), is mainly Consumers Energy and DTE. Who are you going to believe--those who promote good ideas, at no financial benefit to themselves, or companies who are stuck in using dirty non-sustainable health-damaging 20th century modes of energy production? 3. Consitutional amendments are the way referendums are done in Michigan. Witness proposals 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. 4. Our elected officials have been slow to move Michigan into a sustainable energy future. That's the whole reason for this proposal. Michigan is making slow progress toward a 10% sustainable energy goal. In contrast, many states already have 25-33% sustainable energy goals, and most are ahead of Michigan in actual progress (e.g. Iowa at 23%). VOTE YES ON 3 !


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

LarryJ - 1. This gives out of state investors high profits embedded in our electric bills. So yes, it makes great investments, that is why the hedge funds are funding the ballot proposal 2. The backers providing the funding for this are the hedge funds and private equity. Lots of non-profits have said yes this is a good idea, but they are not funding this, only lending their name. The question is how deep did they look at the impact on the economy of Michigan. 3. Proposal 1 is to affirm a law - nothing goes in the constitution. Proposal 2 thru 6 are focused on an end run around the process in Lansing. This is the largest slate of proposals for the ballot in many election cycles. 4. Michigan is ahead of schedule on implementation. We will probably hit the 10 percent level two years early. The way to extend the goal is to go to Lansing and increase the goal. This way we end up with a way to make changes as needed as technology and costs change, not pouring concrete around the change that will take many court cases to fix.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

Vote No!


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 3:52 a.m.

Vote yes. New energy sources are the future, fossil fuels the past. If you think DTE and Consumers a all about profit, not MI's future. The only way to get them to move in the right direction is to force them.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

New energy sources are the future. No problem with that statement. But you can't legislate EVERYTHING!


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 2:49 a.m.

Right on. No on 3.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 2:40 a.m.

Any proposal to rewrite the constitution must have better reasons than this one. There are more lies being spread by the out of state profiteers than Richard Nixon did.