Michigan’s Mandate for Pricier Energy

Katie Tubb /

If an energy technology has so much promise, why would you need a constitutional amendment to require its production? Energy consumers in Michigan should be asking this question.

On the Michigan ballot this November is Proposal 3, or “25 x 25,” which sets out to amend the Michigan constitution to require utilities to provide 25 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025. This proposal is an extension of a cap passed in 2008 that required 10 percent of Michigan’s electricity to come from renewable energy by 2015.

Before the 2008 mandate, only 3 percent of Michigan’s electricity came from renewables. Since then, customers of Michigan’s two largest utilities have shouldered some of the extra costs of subsidizing the renewable electricity customers on the order of $330 million.

Proponents of the mandate argue that attracting green jobs, a cleaner environment, and greater energy security more than make up for the costs, though some are estimating costs to utilities and their customers could be at least $12 billion. The question is, would these high costs be worth it? Evidence has shown that the answer is no.

The promises of green jobs have repeatedly fallen flat, even with the help of billions of dollars of federal investment in wind and solar companies, retrofitting programs, and consumer education. In fact, most of the jobs labeled by the federal government as “green” are occupations like bus drivers and garbage men. And that is to say nothing of the jobs never created or lost because of the Obama Administration’s regulatory war against fossil fuel energy, which has contributed to the nation’s lagging economy.

Secondly, far from improving the environment, renewable portfolio standards and other backdoor climate policies have succeeded only in letting politicians get away with verbal counterfeiting: Politicians get votes for the mere perception of addressing climate change, but these policies will do nothing to impact global temperatures. If man-made climate change is a problem at all, it will take much more drastic (multilateral) action to make a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As for energy security, the simple fact is that renewable electricity sources would replace coal, which is largely produced domestically. This program would not replace imported oil, which provides barely any electricity generation. Furthermore, renewables only work when the sun shines and the wind blows—an odd way to ensure that Michigan has reliable and affordable electricity.

At the core of this proposal is consumer choice. If renewable energy adds value to our energy portfolio, legislatures should not need a mandate forcing producers and consumers to use renewable energy. If there are enough consumers out there who want to pay a premium to use renewable energy, that demand will be met. If expensive renewable energy standards have to be met through government subsidies, then Michigan residents will lose out both as taxpayers and ratepayers.