Energy proposal carries only one county; advocates eye new strategy

By Zachary Peña

Environmental groups are preparing their next move after voters rejected a plan to require 25 percent of the state’s power to come from renewable sources.

The proposal was one of six that voters rejected Tuesday.

Statewide, more than 62 percent of them opposed the renewable energy plan, based on unofficial returns collected by the Secretary of State.

The only county where it passed was Washtenaw, where nearly 52 percent voted yes.

Three of the four counties with the greatest percentage of voters rejecting the proposals have wind farms: Missaukee (79 percent), Huron (77.5 percent), Osceola (74 percent).

John Sarver, executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, gave two theories for the failure.

One is that voters felt amending the constitution was unnecessary.

“Another is that … a minority of residents may not like the way wind farms look and they constitute the extra ‘no’ votes,” he said.

Opponents said factors leading voters to reject the proposal included high costs, contentment with existing energy policy and the loss of acreage to wind turbines.

“Voters understood the 2008 energy laws are working well,” said Jeff Holyfield, director of news and information for Consumers Energy.  “At the end of the day, really what the customers want is an adequate supply of affordable electricity, and they weren’t willing to gamble with Proposal 3.”

In nine counties with wind farms or active plans for them, the proposal was rejected by a greater percentage of voters than it was statewide, with 73 percent voting no. Those counties include Missaukee, Huron, Osceola, Delta, Mason Sanilac, Emmet, Gratiot, Tuscola.

Proposal 3 supporters said they are eagerly awaiting Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s special energy policy address sometime near the end of this month.

The Michigan Environmental Council, a coalition of state environmental organizations, will urge Snyder to consider additional renewable energy standards and hopes for a strong statement advocating clean energy, said the group’s communications director, Hugh McDiarmid.

“Come January, when we start with a new legislature, we’re looking for something to encourage the public to vote on future clean energy proposals,” McDiarmid said.

“The prices from renewable energy sources are dropping while conventional source prices are rising. We think it makes sense (to pursue wind energy) from a job standpoint and an environmental standpoint as well,” he said.

The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association will work on many projects to lower energy-related costs for homeowners, Sarver said.

“There are so many benefits from renewable energy that to me, it’s inevitable that we’re going to use more wind and solar power,” he said. “It’s just a question of how quickly and at what pace.”

Consumer Energy’s own Lake Winds Energy Park — a hundred megawatt, 56-turbine Mason county wind farm — is expected to start serving customers before the end of November, said Holyfield.

He said as final testing is underway for the Lake Winds Energy Park, zoning processes are underway for a 150-megawatt wind farm in Tuscola County.  The utility expects to launch that project in 2015.

 

 

  • Jeff

    What is wrong with progressing with things as you can afford them, instead of trying to wring every cent out of people who are economically at their breaking point already. Just because California residents have billions of dollars and an idea, does not mean it should be forced upon the rest of the country, according to their schedule.

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  • Harold

    Sam, solar and biomass were included as part of the “renewable” energy possibilities. Maybe one day we’ll be smart enough to do away with some of the current biomass facilities which are promoting the clearcutting–and wasting–of our forests. Forests have much greater value for wildlife, for recreation, for water quality and for air purity…and even for high-quality timber.

  • Sam

    It’s just a shame that no one considered the possibilities beyond wind farms like solar power and biomass.