November 6, 2012

Proposal 3: More than 1.5 Million in Michigan Vote Yes on Renewable Energy

Fossil Fuel Interests Flooded State with Money and Misinformation

WASHINGTON (November 6, 2012)— More than 1.5 million voters in Michigan cast ballots in favor of Proposal 3 for a stronger state renewable electricity standard, despite a well-funded disinformation campaign orchestrated by coal burning utilities and out of state opponents of renewable energy, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Passage of Proposal 3 would have boosted Michigan’s use of renewable energy to 25 percent by 2025 and established Michigan as a national clean energy leader.

“The ballot initiative was a hard fought battle,” said Kevin Knobloch, president of UCS. “More than half a million people signed petitions to put renewable energy on the ballot in Michigan, and poll after poll showed a majority of voters supporting Proposal 3 well into September.   

“Coal-dependent utilities and fossil fuel interests threw everything they had into distorting the facts, including an astounding amount of money and resources—more than $35 million,” said Knobloch. “They outspent Proposal 3 supporters by more than three-to-one.”

Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy, Michigan’s two largest utilities, and Americans for Prosperity, backed by oil and coal industry billionaires David and Charles Koch, falsely claimed the stronger renewable electricity standard would drastically increase electricity bills. In fact, similar renewable electricity standards around the country have had little or no impact on rates.

Moreover, the Michigan Public Service Commission found that Michigan utilities are on track to meet the state’s current renewable standard—requiring 10 percent of the electricity they produce to come from renewable sources by 2015—at a much lower cost than originally expected. Most Michigan ratepayers have experienced either no additional cost or a modest increase, such as Consumers Energy residential ratepayers who only pay 52 cents a month for renewable energy.

“Big utilities shortsighted opposition to Proposal 3 only delays the state’s inevitable transition to a clean energy economy, at the expense of their own customers who will now remain burdened with the rising costs of maintaining an obsolete fleet of coal plants,” said Knobloch.

By denying Michigan the opportunity to invest in more wind, solar, biomass and other clean energy resources, Detroit Edison is protecting its coal plants and other investments in coal mining and transport.

“We expect special interest front groups will continue to try to roll back and weaken renewable energy laws around the country,” said Angela Anderson, director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. “More than a dozen of those attempts were defeated last year and we’ll beat them back again this year. The outcome in Michigan was a disappointment, but clean energy is a vital and growing sector of the economy, partly because of bipartisan support for state renewable energy laws.”

Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia have renewable electricity standards. Many of those standards, including Michigan’s, should be updated and strengthened. Seventeen of those standards call for utilities to ramp up their use of renewable energy to at least 20 percent.

“States that have instituted their own standards are reaping the benefits when it comes to jobs,” said Anderson. “California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, and New Jersey, which all have strong standards, are home to a large percentage of the more than 1,100 manufacturing plants in the country that produce components for wind turbines and solar facilities.”

Despite formidable obstacles, including the recession and on and off congressional support for renewable tax credits, wind generation more than tripled and solar photo voltaic generation more than quadrupled over the past five years. This summer, installed wind capacity soared past the 50,000 megawatt mark, enough to power nearly 13 million homes, which is equivalent to all the homes in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Meanwhile, the costs of wind and solar power have dropped dramatically in recent years and are projected to fall further. According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy study, wind power was competitive with a range of wholesale power prices in 2011.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.