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Opinion | Michigan’s clean energy law will lower bills, boost reliability

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Jennifer Conlin, D-Ann Arbor, is a first-term state representative in House District 48.

“You get what you pay for.” 

It’s a cliche for a reason. Usually, people say it in response to a poor product or service that was cheap. But what do you call it when you pay top dollar for bad service?

Michigan electricity.

We in the Great Lakes State have the distinction of paying the highest utility rates in the Midwest for below-average service. You don’t have to look further than this year as evidence. Ice storms in February and thunderstorms in the summer knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, some for a week or more. It’s unacceptable, and it’s a serious problem.

The Michigan Jobs, Michigan Energy package is the solution. The legislation we passed in November, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law, lays the groundwork for massive improvements in our energy sector. And we’re not raising taxes or bills — over the next several years, Michigan can pull down $8 billion from the federal government to pay for it.

I want to focus on three critical components of the package.

First, your energy bills will decrease. We’re raising our clean energy mandates in part because wind and solar energy are cheaper to produce than coal or gas. The sun shines and the wind blows everywhere, but we pay $18 billion a year to import fossil fuels into Michigan because they aren’t found here. And our legislation requires that utility savings get passed onto customers, not shareholder profits. One report suggests that Michiganders will save an average of $145 a year on their energy bills.

Second, your electricity will be more reliable. The Michigan Jobs, Michigan Energy package requires that new energy facilities be built only where they’re needed. It raises the cap on residential solar projects that can help homes weather a storm and sell energy back to the grid. And Michigan is one of the first states in the nation to invest in energy storage projects, so that when bad weather hits, your lights will stay on.

Finally, your community will benefit. We’re calling it Michigan Jobs, Michigan Energy because these investments will create about 160,000 jobs in the clean energy sector — good-paying union jobs that can support a family. Utilities that build large-scale energy projects will pay the municipality where it’s located hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Your local government can use that to lower property taxes, improve local roads or hire more police officers.

You’ve paid too much, for too little, for too long. The Michigan Jobs, Michigan Energy package will make the energy you need to power the homes, schools and businesses in your community more affordable and more reliable. It puts your friends and neighbors to work building the energy-independent future Michigan deserves.

We have the power to make Michigan an even better place to put down roots, raise a family or start a business. Michigan Jobs, Michigan Energy will power our state to success.

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