by Jason Hopkins
Michigan residents will likely be paying more for their electricity after a well-funded ballot initiative prompted the state’s largest utilities to adopt higher renewable energy usage.
On Friday, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy — Michigan’s two biggest utility companies — announced a compromise with a ballot committee to dramatically increase their renewable portfolio standards. DTE and Consumers have agreed to establish a goal of at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030, which includes a pledge that 25 percent of their electricity sales originate from renewable sources by that same year. In return, Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan will essentially drop its campaign to require at least 30 percent of a provider’s electricity sales come from renewable energy by 2030.
The agreement raises the bar for electricity providers in Michigan. Under the state’s current mandate, utilities were expected to reach 15 percent renewable energy by the end of 2021.
Environmentalists launched Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan in February to collect enough signatures to bring the ballot initiative to voters. The group was prepared to submit over 350,000 signatures it had collected over the past few months. Assuming enough petitions were valid, the measure would have gone to Michigan Legislature then the November ballot if lawmakers did not act.
Under pressure, DTE and Consumers agreed to the slightly more flexible mandate of 25 percent.
The compromise comes as a major win for billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. NextGen Climate Action, an organization he funds and operates, burned over $1.8 million in direct and in-kind contributions into the initiative.
“The agreement between Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan and DTE Energy and Consumers Energy is a win for the people of Michigan,” Steyer said in a statement Friday. “Every American deserves the right to clean air and water. With this agreement, Michigan has become a national example of how consumers, public interest advocates and energy companies can work together to find real solutions to combat climate change.”
Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan is led by John Freeman, a former Democratic state legislator and union organizer who has led other progressive initiates in the past — such as leading a failed attempt in 2008 to put a universal health care proposal on the Michigan ballot. Freeman will continue to push renewables in the state, he said.
However, the sweeping agreement is being set without input from Michigan lawmakers, the Michigan Public Service Commission or even Michigan voters, critics argue.
“It’s disconcerting that Michigan’s monopoly utilities have become so confident in their ability to independently establish energy policy for the state that they don’t appear to have sought approval for this groundbreaking agreement from the Michigan Public Service Commission before going public with it,” Jason Hayes said in a statement to Detroit News. Hayes serves as director of environmental policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, a free market group. “I am left wondering: who granted Steyer, [Consumers] and [DTE] the authority to single-handedly set Michigan’s energy policy in this fashion, especially when the people of Michigan are the ones who will have to foot the bill for all of this?”
Over 62 percent of voters in the state already rejected a 25 percent renewable standard ballot proposal back in 2012, Hayes also noted.
Beyond spending his fortune on climate change initiatives all across the country, Steyer is also leading a campaign to impeach President Donald Trump. His Need to Impeach campaign aims to elect enough Democrats in 2018’s midterms in order to flip the House of Representatives and begin impeachment proceedings.
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Jason on Twitter.