Michigan Senate approves 2040 deadline for carbon-neutral energy
- Bills would mandate full transition to clean energy sources by state-regulated utilities by 2040
- Other changes include increased efficiency requirements, new renewable energy targets
- Democrats said change would combat climate change; Republicans say the plan would hike rates and weaken reliability
LANSING — The Democratic-led Michigan Senate on Thursday approved a plan to wean state-regulated utilities off fossil fuels and fully transition to clean energy by a 2040, over Republican objections the plan would raise consumer rates.
Approved along party lines, the package (Senate bills 271, 273, 502 and 519) would ramp up requirements for efficiency and set new targets for clean energy, requiring utilities to generate energy using at least 50 percent renewable sources like wind and solar by 2030 and 60 percent by 2035.
Senate Democrats initially sought a more aggressive timeline of 100 percent clean energy by 2035, but shifted that goal amid criticism that could leave Michigan more vulnerable to power outages. On the other end, some environmental groups have said lawmakers made too many concessions.
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The bills include nuclear energy among the acceptable mix of carbon-neutral sources, as well as natural gas that uses carbon capture to permanently store carbon dioxide.
Supporters said Thursday the plan — which still needs approval from the House — is a significant step to addressing pollution and climate change in Michigan.
“Climate change is happening now, causing millions of dollars of damage in Michigan,” said Sen. Sue Shink, D-Ann Arbor. “This is the moment to do our part.”
The state’s two largest utilities, DTE and Consumers Energy, were neutral on the main bills in the package. Senate Republicans, who unsuccessfully sought more than a dozen amendments to the bills, argued the plan threatens the reliability of Michigan’s energy grid by shifting away from natural gas and would increase the state’s high energy rates.
“Increased costs mean higher rates for consumers, plain and simple,” said Sen. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township.
Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, criticized Democrats for not doing more to obtain bipartisan backing of the bills, pointing to past energy policy changes that earned such support.
Nesbitt said the “rushed, short-sighted process … valued achieving partisan talking points rather than producing an energy policy that can work for the people of Michigan,” noting that major ratepayers and business groups around the state are opposed.
Sen. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, told reporters Thursday that Michigan stands to gain a significant boost in federal investment with a faster transition to clean and renewable energy sources. That could help make the changes more affordable, he said.
Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, said the cost of doing nothing would be far greater to Michigan residents.
"This legislation marks the beginning of our taking bold action to address this urgent crisis," Geiss said on the Senate floor.
In addition to the new energy standards, the Senate Democrats’ plan would expand the scope of the Michigan Public Service Commission and require regulators to prioritize specific energy goals, including service quality, affordability, cost effectiveness and equitable access.
The bills would also create an office tasked with transitioning Michigan’s economy to a renewable energy future and helping workers in the automotive and energy sectors learn the skills required for it.
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