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Michigan turns lights out on proposed renewable energy mandate

Michigan voters pulled the plug on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required Michigan’s utilities to provide 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

With most precincts reporting, 63 percent of voters opposed the measure.

“Obviously, we’re pretty happy with what we’re seeing,” said Steve Transeth, the former head of the Michigan Public Service Commission who has worked to defeat the ballot measure. “As we’ve said all along, it’s very important we move forward with clean energy and a clean environment. But this proposal was just not the way to go about it.”

Proposal 3 represented a doubling-down on renewable energy after state legislators voted in 2008 to reach a 15 percent standard by 2015. Those backing the ballot measure claimed the new standard would not only accelerate Michigan’s move away from environmentally-damaging fossil fuels, but create jobs and investment from the construction and maintenance of wind turbines.

Opponents contended making the “25 x 25” standard a part of the state’s constitution locks energy producers into a rigid structure that does not allow any breathing room in energy emergencies. They also argue any jobs created will mostly be in other states that are already manufacturing wind turbines.

In recent months, the battle over Proposal 3 had become heated, with both sides maintaining a constant advertising presence on Michigan television.

On Tuesday, David Pike, 55, a teacher from Delta Township in suburban Lansing, said he supported increasing renewable energy production but was opposed to locking a 25 percent requirement into the state constitution.

“To have it as a constitutional mandate, I just think it was not appropriate,” Pike said.

Other states attempting to move away from fossil fuels, renewable options include solar, wind, biomass and hydro powers. The development of generating capacity from solar, biomass and hydro are fairly limited in Michigan right now.

That essentially leaves the state with one option for meeting a 25 percent by 2025 renewable standard: wind power. And those massive turbines that rise above the landscape to harness wind energy have not always met with support from the communities developers have targeted.