Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Michigan Rejects Renewable Energy Amendment; Chicago Accepts Promise of Cheaper Electricity

A couple of energy issues were on ballots in states yesterday.
Two of interest to me were the attempt to set quotas for chosen energy sources in the Constitution of Michigan, and, more obscurely, events involving control of electricity supply in Illinois, and particularly Chicago.

Michigan Proposal 3: Voters reject 25 by 25 renewable energy mandate
LANSING, MI — Voters rejected Proposal 3, opting not to put the renewable energy mandate in the state’s constitution.
Opposition group Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) for Michigan claimed victory in defeating the proposal that it said would lead to higher electric bills. It made the call at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The measure lost 63 percent to 37 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting.
Known as the 25 by 25 proposal, it would have amended the constitution to require Michigan utilities to derive at least 25 percent of their annual electric retail sales from clean renewable sources, including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower, by 2025.
Continue Reading at Michigan Live

More interesting is the story on municipal aggregation from Illinois.  This ballot initiatives simply adds intrigue to a story I noted this summer:

Chicagoans vote yes on municipal aggregation, provoking cheers and skepticism

Chicago voters have approved a ballot referendum authorizing the city to move forward with municipal aggregation, wherein the city will buy electricity on behalf of close to one million residents.
City officials had promoted aggregation primarily as a way to save money for ratepayers, compared to the rates they would have been paying to get electricity through the utility ComEd. Meanwhile popular support for aggregation was driven largely by the hope that it will facilitate the purchase of more renewable energy and ideally the creation of new renewable generation.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, 56 percent of voters had approved the measure.
Voters in 221 Illinois municipalities also faced ballot referendums dealing with aggregation Tuesday.
Electricity aggregation referenda were also on the way to passing in a number of Chicago suburbs, including the south and west side working class suburbs of Hillside, Chicago Heights, Country Club Hills and Calumet City; and well-off northern suburbs including Glenview and Inverness. The vote was close in other Chicago suburbs, including the south side towns of Blue Island and Dolton.
Since the state legislature passed a law allowing municipal aggregation in 2009, more than 250 communities have taken that route.
Politicizing power purchases might not work out to the ratepayers' benefit.
One issue is Illinois can get cheaper power, to cover mandated renewables quotas, from outside the state - dumping the current provider, who was locked into Illinois generation has therefore meant savings.
One of arguments for subsidizing wind generation has been the argument that it creates jobs (which I call the hole-digging argument, but ...).  Presumably taking advantage of federal tax credits to get unreliable generation cheaply from another jurisdiction would therefore be destroying jobs, and I'd expect a fierce lobby will have an easier target to get charges added to ratepayers' bills to fund local projects that cannot compete with the output from areas of Iowa and Texas.

There is some reason to think one particular company may hold some political clout: Invenergy is based in Illinois, and it's very wealthy owner, among other things, reportedly paid "for part of Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration."
Chicago's current mayor was then President Obama's Chief of Staff.

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