A Watershed Moment: The Push for a Better Renewable Energy Standard

On this week’s episode, we hear from Matt Blain, West Michigan Organizer for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, as he discusses the Renewable Energy Standard Initiative, which will be on this November’s ballot.

Michigan’s environmental community scored a big win last week when the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs Campaign announced that it had collected 530,000 signatures (over 200,000 more than actually needed) to bring a more aggressive renewable energy standard to the ballot this November.

The new initiative calls for utility suppliers to obtain 25% of their power from renewable energy sources such as wind, biomass, solar power or hydro power by the year 2025. Currently, only about 4% of Michigan’s power comes from renewable resources. These “25 by 25” RES represent a stricter goal than Michigan’s current law requiring a 10% increase by 2015.

But this isn’t just a victory for environmental activists concerned about air quality and climate change (though, obviously, these things are super important problems that the new standards will help address); stronger RES will have a direct impact on Michigan’s economy, and that affects everyone.

Already, the renewable energy market is a $260 billion business, and it’s only going to get bigger. It doesn’t take an economist to figure out that the $1.4 to $1.8 billion dollars that we shell out each year to import coal into Michigan would be better served investing in a growing industry that would keep money and jobs in-state.

“One of the best things about renewable energy is that it’s becoming cost competitive with coal. 60% of our electricity comes from coal power and we import 100% of the coal that we use to produce our electricity,” said Blain, “What this proposal will do is create 44,000 Michigan jobs and these are jobs that can’t be outsourced to other states. It will also spark over $10 billion in new investments.”

And guess what. That jobs number; it’s low. New estimates from the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs Campaign put the amount of jobs that a more progressive RES could create at 56,000.

As it stands, Michigan is behind the curve when it comes to RES. Already, over 30 other states have enacted laws similar to our 25 by 25 ballot proposal. Michigan has been looking for a way to get out of the economic doldrums for a long time. Energy policy that would help build more wind turbines – and solar panels and dams – is a good place to start.

Listen to this week’s episode here.

“A Watershed Moment” is a weekly radio program focused on environmental news and happenings in West Michigan, plus solutions for living a greener life.  Broadcast on WYCE-FM 88.1 on Tuesdays at 8:30am and 5:30pm, this program is produced by Grand Rapids Community Media Center and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

0 replies
  1. Charles Hausmann
    Charles Hausmann says:

    I can’t believe you’re promoting dam construction when there is a big push to remove them and re-establish natural fisheries.

    Fracking for natrual gas is a better solution for home grown clean energy than building dams.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    The 56,000 jobs number is largely inflated. This did not play out well in Minnesota. Solar/hydro account for less than 7% of renewable energy in Michigan, they are not a cost effective renewable. The wind industry has been subsidized, so we pay with tax dollars, not in the utility bills. Amending the State Constitution is different than merely passing a law. Currently Michigan stands at less than 5% renewable energy, despite the current law being passed in 2008, which requires 10% by 2015.

    Reply
  3. Lewis
    Lewis says:

    The 56,000 jobs number is largely inflated. This did not play out well in Minnesota. Solar/hydro account for less than 7% of renewable energy in Michigan, they are not a cost effective renewable. The wind industry has been subsidized, so we pay with tax dollars, not in the utility bills. Amending the State Constitution is different than merely passing a law. Currently Michigan stands at less than 5% renewable energy, despite the current law being passed in 2008, which requires 10% by 2015.

    Reply

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