A state ballot proposal could create nearly 75,000 Michigan “job years” by 2025, according to an energy policy impact report released this year.
So just what is a job year? That’s a concept puzzling Michigan voters facing a November ballot initiative that could require 25 percent of that state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.
Supporters cite the job year figure from a Michigan State University report. A job year is a full-time job sustained for a year. That could translate to anything from 75,000 people working for a year to 2,500 people working for 30 years.
Critics say it’s deceptive.
“Their jobs claims have changed with the wind, literally,” said Megan Brown, spokeswoman for the CARE for Michigan Coalition, which supports clean energy but disagrees with the proposal.
It’s unclear from the report how many people will actually be employed if the proposal passes.
The initiative could create 31,513 job years in construction and 42,982 job years in operations and maintenance, said report author Benjamin Calnin, informatics and decision support coordinator at MSU’s Land Policy Institute.
There’s also potential for additional jobs within Michigan’s manufacturing sector, Calnin wrote in an email.
That could be anywhere from 3,935 job years to 39,350 job years in large-scale wind turbine manufacturing alone, depending on how well Michigan manufacturers do in that market, the report said.
“Michigan has an outstanding manufacturing history,” said Mark Fisk, spokesman forMichigan Energy Michigan Jobs, the group pushing the 25 percent renewable energy standard. “We have the workers, the businesses and the know-how to be a leader in clean energy.”
It wouldn’t be the first Great Lakes state to set an ambitious energy standard. Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio have all passed statutes locking them in to 25 percent renewables by 2025.
But it’s hard to make comparisons. Some states define renewable energy more loosely than others.
“There is considerable difference between Michigan’s proposal and the situation in those three states,” said Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy adviser for the CARE for Michigan Coalition, which opposes the measure.
Advocates of the renewable energy proposal often compare Michigan’s energy plan to Ohio’s. But Michigan’s plan is more restrictive, only including wind, solar, biomass or hydropower as plausible renewable energy sources, Sikkema said.
Only half of Ohio’s 25 percent must come from such renewable sources, he said. The other half can come from alternative energy sources like nuclear power, “clean coal” and energy efficiency programs, making it easier for Ohio to reach its 25 percent renewable energy goal.
New York has the whole region beat with its goal of 30 percent renewables by 2015. But its renewable energy program is even more inclusive than Ohio’s.
What makes Michigan’s energy proposal stand out is that all of the jobs created from the initiative will be in-state, Fisk said. That means all of the construction, manufacturing, and operations and management positions created from the proposed law must be filled by Michiganders.