A coalition of environmental groups and local businesses have succeeded in getting the signatures needed to put Michigan's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) on the November ballot.
The referendum will ask Michigan voters to raise the RPS - from the current 10% by 2015 to 25% by 2025 (If the referendum is approved, utilities would be required to source 25% of their electricity from renewables by 2025).
Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs gathered close to 530,000 signatures, far beyond the minimum of 322,609 it needed to add the measure to the November general election ballot.
They were able to do so despite a disinformation campaign organized against it by the Chamber of Commerce and utilities.
Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs is positioning the ballot measure as an economic referendum in a state seeking to diversify away from its historic dependence on the auto industry.
"Clean energy businesses here in Michigan are using our manufacturing skills to diversify the economy and put people back to work," says Mark Fisk, spokesman for Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs . "By increasing our renewable energy standard, we can strengthen this sector even further and move our economy forward."
Using data from renewable projects in other states, independent economists estimate a higher renewable standard in Michigan will create $10 billion in new investment and more than 56,000 jobs.
"Advanced energy manufacturing already supports more than 20,500 jobs in Michigan and $5 billion in economic activity," says Steve Linder, of the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs Business Leadership Group.
But opponents believe the current standard is fine. "We should wait to see how it turns out before doing some constitutional end run that is going to impose huge costs on Michigan ratepayers," Ben Erulkar, senior vice president of the Detroit Regional Chamber, told the Detroit News.
In June, a group backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and two of the state's largest utility companies started the "Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan Coalition (CARE)" campaign to thwart the ballot initiative.
The campaign plays to consumers' economic fears, suggesting that raising the state's renewable energy standards will result in dramatically higher utility costs.
This despite an analysis by Michigan's own Public Service Commission that shows the state's current RPS, which requires 10% penetration by 2015, has already spurred $100 million in economic activity. The report also shows a remarkable trend seen throughout the rest of the country: the cost of wind, solar, and hydro "is cheaper than a new coal-fired generation" in the state.
Over 30 states have an RPS that's close to Michigan's proposal.
As debate over the state's portfolio standards heats up, businesses aren't sitting around waiting for the outcome.
This week, home furnishing retailer IKEA switched on the biggest solar photovoltaic array in the state -- a 122,000 square foot system at its store in Canton.
The installation has a capacity of 977.6 kilowatts (KW) and it includes 4,160 panels. It was designed by Chicago-based SoCore Energy, one of the largest solar installers in the Midwest.