Whitmer signs energy bills to make Michigan use clean energy by 2040
- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law several clean energy bills aimed at making the state carbon neutral by 2050
- The bills require utilities to get 100 percent from clean energy sources by 2040 and boost energy efficiency savings
- The new laws also shift authority to the state over large-scale wind and solar projects
DETROIT — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed climate bills Tuesday afternoon that will require Michigan utility companies to get 100 percent of their energy from clean energy sources by 2040.
“Today’s package will help us make more clean energy right here in Michigan, reducing our reliance on foreign oil,” Whitmer said before signing the bills during a ceremony in Detroit’s Eastern Market attended by Democratic lawmakers and student climate activists. “Getting this done will reduce air, water and land pollution. It will balance reliability and affordability so people can keep their power on during storms and floods.”
The new laws also give the state the authority to override local decisions to allow farmers and property owners to house wind and solar projects on their land.
“It's your land, you should have the freedom to use it however you want,” Whitmer said, adding that the state’s control over wind and solar projects will allow energy companies to avoid the bitter local zoning battles that have doomed such projects in the past.
- Michigan Senate votes to override local decisions on wind, solar energy
- Michigan House passes climate change reform, mandating clean energy by 2040
That will streamline the process “and ensure we can meet our 100 percent clean energy standard and put more money in the pockets of Michigan farmers and landowners,” she said.
Under the new legislation, utility companies have until 2027 to draw 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources including wind, solar, manure and landfill methane. The law also allows some energy to be derived from incinerated waste.
The requirement would gradually increase to 60 percent by 2035.
In addition to the renewable energy goal, companies will have to meet clean energy targets. Starting in 2035, they’ll have to generate 80 percent of their power from clean sources such as nuclear and natural gas with carbon capture technology that removes carbon dioxide emissions from industrial plants. They’ll need to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2040.
Utilities struggling to meet these expectations may be granted “good cause” exemptions from the Michigan Public Service Commission for up to two years.
The 2040 deadline aligns with the governor’s goal, set in 2020, that the state would become carbon neutral by 2050, making Michigan the ninth state to make the pledge.
Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, the state's two largest utilities, say they’re making progress toward that goal. Consumers previously said it will emit zero carbon emissions by 2040, while DTE said it will meet the goal by midcentury.
The legislation passed the House while Democrats still had a two-seat majority. Since then, Democratic Reps. Kevin Coleman and Lori Stone stepped down after winning mayoral races in Westland and Warren earlier this month, leaving two seats open in the House and — at least until early next year — an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the chamber.
Opponents of the new law raised concerns about the timeline and reliability of wind and solar energy.
“Michigan is already burdened by high energy costs and an unreliable grid that leaves families in the dark far too frequently,” Rep. Jamie Greene, R-Richmond, said in a statement shortly after the bills passed earlier this month. “This plan is a recipe for disaster. It shamefully ignores reliability and affordability — the two main concerns people are grappling with when it comes to their electricity — and will make our problems even worse.”
The measure giving the Michigan Public Service Commission authority over the location of wind and solar projects, provided they meet criteria regarding how far they have to be from neighborhoods, how much light and noise they produce, also drew barbs from Republicans.
“These bills use bureaucracy to bully our communities, and that’s not the right approach,” Rep.Greg Alexander (R-Carsonville) said in a statement after the bills passed. “If the state is hyper-focused on this type of energy push, it should lead by example and put renewable projects on state property and not force it onto communities, residents and agricultural lands.”
The bills Whitmer signed were:
- Senate Bill 273, which requires utilities to boost their energy-efficiency savings from 1 percent to 1.5 percent;
- Senate Bill 502, which expands the authority of the Michigan Public Service Commission and requires commissioners to prioritize new goals including service quality, affordability, cost-effectiveness and equitable access;
- Senate Bill 519, which establishes an office in the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity that would help assist and retrain automotive and energy workers whose jobs will be replaced as industries shift from gas-powered vehicles and coal plants to EVs and renewable energy;
- Senate Bill 277, which codifies an existing state rule that allows farmers to rent their land for solar arrays while staying enrolled in the state’s farmland preservation program.
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