By ZACHARY PEÑA
Capital News Service
LANSING — Environmental groups are preparing their next move after voters overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment to require 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources.
Statewide, more than 62 percent opposed the renewable energy plan, based on unofficial returns collected by the Secretary of State.
The only county where it passed was Washtenaw, where nearly 52 percent voted yes.
Three of the four counties with the greatest percentage of voters rejecting the proposals have wind farms: Missaukee (79 percent), Huron (77.5 percent) and Osceola (74 percent).
John Sarver, executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, gave two theories for the Election Day failure.
One is that voters felt amending the constitution was unnecessary.
“Another is that a minority of residents may not like the way wind farms look and they constitute the extra ‘no’ votes,” Sarver said.
Opponents said factors leading voters to reject the proposal included high costs, contentment with existing energy policy and the loss of acreage to wind turbines.
Jeff Holyfield, director of news and information for Consumers Energy., said, “Voters understood the 2008 energy laws are working well.
“At the end of the day, really what the customers want is an adequate supply of affordable electricity, and they weren’t willing to gamble with Proposal 3,” Holyfield said.
In nine counties with wind farms or active plans for them, the proposal was rejected by a greater percentage than it was statewide, with 73 percent voting no. They are Missaukee, Huron, Osceola, Delta, Mason, Sanilac, Emmet, Gratiot and Tuscola.
Proposal 3 supporters said they are eagerly awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder’s special energy policy address expected near the end of November.
The Michigan Environmental Council, a coalition of state environmental organizations, will urge Snyder to consider additional renewable energy standards and hopes for a strong statement advocating clean energy, said the group’s communications director, Hugh McDiarmid.
“Come January when we start with a new legislature, we’re looking for something to encourage the public to vote on future clean energy proposals,” McDiarmid said.
“The prices from renewable energy sources are dropping while conventional source prices are rising. We think it makes sense from a job standpoint and an environmental standpoint as well” to pursue wind energy, he said.
And Sarver said the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association will work on many projects to lower energy-related costs for homeowners.
“There are so many benefits from renewable energy that to me, it’s inevitable that we’re going to use more wind and solar power,” he said. “It’s just a question of how quickly and at what pace.”
Consumer Energy’s own Lake Winds Energy Park — a 100-megawatt, 56-turbine Mason County wind farm — is expected to start serving customers before the end of November, said Holyfield.
As final testing is underway for the energy park in Riverton and Summit townships, zoning processes are underway for a 150-megawatt wind farm in Tuscola County, he said.
The utility expects to launch that project in 2015.
Zachary Peña writes for Great Lakes Echo.
By ZACHARY PEÑA