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DTE, Consumers strike clean energy deal with ballot initiative organizers

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Negotiations between the utilities and ballot initiative organizers picked up in recent weeks as it became clear Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan had enough votes to get on the ballot.

Michigan's two largest utilities have struck a deal with the group Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan that will keep a renewable energy initiative off the ballot in November.

The group, backed by California billionaire Tom Steyer, agreed to drop the ballot drive in exchange for a commitment from the utilities to rely on 25 percent renewable energy by the year 2030, and to increase energy efficiency by 25 percent by 2030.

John Freeman is with Clean Energy.  He says negotiations with the utilities became more serious and more specific as the deadline to file the signatures approached.

"We had more than enough signatures to file with Bureau of Elections," says Freemand, "and the utilities knew that the end of May was the date that we would file the signatures."

The utilities will incorporate the agreement into plans that they must file with the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Margrethe Kearney is an analyst with the Environmental Law and Policy Center.  She says the deal is good for everyone in Michigan.

"I hope that this type of collaboration between utilities and other stakeholders is something that continues," says Kearney.  "I hope this is a sign that we here in Michigan are going to start planning together for our energy future."

The initiative would have required the utilities to increase renewables to 18 percent by 2022, 21 percent by 2024, 24 percent by 2026, 27 percent by 2028, and 30 percent by 2030.

Although both Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have committed to dramatically reducing greenhouse gases from their operations, they said the mandates were too inflexible, and would not allow them to add renewable energy at the most opportune time, adding to costs.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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