Michigan's referendum, which would have raised the state requirement for renewable energy to 25% by 2025, failed to pass.
At last count, the vote was 63% against, 37% in favor of the proposal.
Nearly two million people voted in favor of strengthening Michigan's Renewable Portfolio Standard, but a well-funded disinformation campaign orchestrated by coal burning utilities and out-of-state opponents of renewable energy turned the tide against it.
Using front groups like CARE (Clean Affordable Renewable Energy), fossil fuel interests convinced voters the referendum would cost the state $12 billion.
More than half a million people signed petitions to put the referendum on the ballot and poll after poll showed a majority supported it well into September.
"Coal-dependent utilities and fossil fuel interests threw everything they had into distorting the facts, including an astounding amount of money and resources - more than $35 million. They outspent Proposal 3 supporters by more than three-to-one," says Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy - Michigan's two largest utilities, and Americans for Prosperity - backed by oil and coal industry billionaires David and Charles Koch, falsely claimed the stronger renewable electricity standard would drastically increase electricity bills. In fact, similar renewable electricity standards around the country have had little or no impact on rates, says UCS.
Moreover, the Michigan Public Service Commission says the state's utilities are on track to meet the current RPS of 10% by 2015, at a much lower cost than originally expected. Most Michigan ratepayers have experienced either no additional cost or a modest increase, such as Consumers Energy residential ratepayers who only pay 52 cents a month for renewable energy.
"Big utilities shortsighted opposition to Proposal 3 only delays the state's inevitable transition to a clean energy economy, at the expense of their own customers who will now remain burdened with the rising costs of maintaining an obsolete fleet of coal plants," says Knobloch.
"We expect special interest front groups will continue to try to roll back and weaken renewable energy laws around the country," says Angela Anderson, director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. "More than a dozen of those attempts were defeated last year and we'll beat them back again this year."
29 states and Wash DC have an RPS, many of which need to be updated and strengthened, but 17 require 20% or more renewables.
"States that have instituted their own standards are reaping the benefits when it comes to jobs," says Anderson. "California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, and New Jersey, which all have strong standards, are home to a large percentage of the more than 500 manufacturing plants in the country that produce components for wind turbines and solar facilities."
"We're disappointed by the results. Big energy monopolies massively outspent us and used fear and misinformation to confuse voters, who do support renewable energy," says Mark Fisk of Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs, which got the referendum on the ballot.