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Renewable energy campaign files for November ballot

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Wind turbines could be part of the renewable energy campaign.

The campaign to put renewable energy targets into the state constitution filed 550,000 petition signatures today to qualify for the November ballot.

This campaign pits utility companies and their employee unions against energy entrepreneurs who see a business opportunity in amending Michigan’s constitution. The amendment would require energy providers to generate a quarter of the state’s electricity using wind, solar power or other renewable resources by 2025.

Supporters of the amendment say it would help make Michigan more energy independent, give a boost to the alternative energy industry, and move the state toward using more clean energy.

Liesl Clark is an energy consultant. She says the long-term benefits of renewable energy deserve to be protected in the state constitution.

“What you’re actually going to see is decreased energy prices, because you’re getting it from a fuel-less energy source,” she said. “You’re getting it from the wind and the sun, which you don’t have to pay for. So, you’re building out based on something you don’t have to transport in, you don’t have to mine in another state, which we have to pay for. We pay one of the highest costs for coal because we have to transport it into our peninsular state.”

Blair Miller is the CFO of Swedish Biogas International, which operates a facility in Flint. It turns sewage into energy.  She says the new energy standard would help her business.

“Certainly, our operation of providing an alternative from buying directly from the utilities is something that will gain more momentum and educate the consumer as to what biogas can do in the state of Michigan,” she said.

Business groups, existing utilities and their employee unions oppose the ballot question. They say Michigan’s current energy law is already working, and the state constitution should not be changed to create business opportunities.

Utilities say the amendment could force increases in business and residential energy bills if they can’t shop around for the least-expensive type of fuel to generate power. 

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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