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Group wants 30% renewables for Michigan electric utilities by 2030

wind turbines in a field
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

Wind and solar groups are launching a ballot initiative to require electric utilities to use 30% renewable sources by 2030.

The state's current mandate is 15% by 2022.

Campaign manager John Freeman says Michigan can do a lot better than 15%. He says the cost of renewables is cheaper than natural gas or coal.

"So everybody will save money," says Freeman, "and plus, we get the added benefits of having much cleaner air because solar and wind don't produce any pollution."

The initiative goes before the state Board of Canvassers for approval as to form on Tuesday. If approved, Freeman says the campaign to gather signatures to get the initiative on the 2018 ballot will start immediately. The campaign is being funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer's NextGen America nonprofit.

Utilities say the initiative is unnecessary, because they are already moving towards adopting more renewables. DTE Energy has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, for example. And utilities say the initiative would deprive them of the flexibility they need to add renewables at the right time to keep down costs.

A similar campaign – one that hoped to change the state constitution to require 25% renewables by 2025 – failed soundly, in the face of opposition from business groups and DTE Energy and Consumers Energy.

But Freeman says public opinion on the need for renewable energy has only strengthened since then.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.