Policy Watch

Michigan Joins Great Lakes Region States in Committing to 100% Carbon-Free Energy



With a slate of clean energy bills recently passed and expected to be signed into law on November 28, Michigan will become a national leader in efforts to transition to a clean energy economy. It becomes the third Great Lakes state to commit to 100 percent carbon-free electricity.

The ambitious legislation is expected to transform energy systems in Michigan, a heavy industry, major manufacturing state. Michigan currently gets more than half its power from plants burning coal and natural gas, and only about a third from nuclear energy and renewables.

When these bills are signed into law, Michigan will join Minnesota and Illinois in making electric power decarbonization the bedrock of climate action by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and creating new, clean energy jobs. Wisconsin has also made advancements toward becoming carbon-free, as have many municipalities across the Great Lakes region.

Provisions of the Michigan bills are as follows:

Senate Bill 271 requires 100 percent electricity from carbon-free sources by 2040, with interim requirements of 80 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035 and 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030, while expanding 10-fold the amount of rooftop solar allowed and driving a rapid expansion of power storage capacity over the next several years to complement all the new renewable energy generation.

Senate Bill 273 raises the level of energy waste reduction that electricity and natural gas utilities must achieve annually, with minimum spending requirements in low-income communities to ensure that the people who need affordable energy the most will benefit from these programs.

Senate Bill 502 authorizes the Michigan Public Service Commission to consider climate, equity, and affordability when approving long-term plans by utilities.

Senate Bill 519 creates an office within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to assist workers and communities in adapting to a clean energy economy.

House Bills 5120 and 5121 give the Michigan Public Service Commission more authority over the siting of solar, wind, and battery storage projects, and require large renewable energy projects to provide clearly defined benefits to the communities hosting those projects.

Environmental organizations working on energy policy in Michigan, many of whom Joyce supports through our Environment Program, consider the legislation a major victory. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

This bold climate legislation will help mitigate worse impacts from climate change all while saving us money on utility bills and protecting our kids from dangerous pollution,” —Charlotte Jameson, Chief Policy Officer, Michigan Environmental Council.

“The Clean Energy & Jobs Act puts Michigan on a path for some of the fastest buildout in the nation of renewable energy, like wind and solar – accelerating the cleanup of our air and protecting our Great Lakes and drinking water,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Michigan is now at the center of the nation’s transition to clean energy that will lower energy costs for families and small businesses, create good-paying, union jobs and tackle the climate crisis.”

The Michigan Environmental Council has created an excellent short guide explaining the key elements of each bill in the package.

The Natural Resources Defense Council analyzed the package, determining that the bills, “make Michigan a national leader on clean, carbon-free and renewable energy while also providing Michiganders with more affordable utility bills.”

Stressing the need to go even further, the Union of Concerned Scientists laid out specific policy ideas Michigan could consider as soon as next year to advance equity and climate justice as the state transitions to a clean energy future.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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