Bold climate action advances in the Michigan legislature
Michigan’s fight against climate change took a huge leap forward last night as the Michigan House of Representatives approved landmark legislation advancing renewable energy generation, helping consumers save energy at home, and creating the foundation for a just transition to clean energy.
“Over the last few years we’ve seen the consequences of an aging power system and climate change here in Michigan. Michiganders have experienced rising energy bills, flooded yards and basements from increased severe weather, and long-term health effects from dirty coal plant pollution. ” said Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer with the Michigan Environmental Council, “This bold climatelegislation will help mitigate worse impacts from climate change all while saving us money on utility bills and protecting our kids from dangerous pollution.”
According to Jameson, the six-bill package moves Michigan well beyond the policy status quo and what any major Michigan utility has proposed in its current long range energy plan, requiring utility companies to produce 100% clean energy by 2040, increasing utility energy efficiency requirements and ensuring the state's utility regulator considers climate, affordability and equity in utility long range energy plans. Other bills in the package will reduce barriers to building out large scale renewable projects and ensure that workers are not left behind as Michigan transitions to a clean energy economy.
The bills also pave the way for significant savings for Michiganders. Since clean and efficient energy is cheaper than fossil fuels, this legislation will reduce costs – in fact, every dollar spent on energy efficiency alone results in $4 in savings for customers. Moreover, a report from Evergreen Action, 5 Lakes Energy, and Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council shows that strong action on clean energy will save Michigan more than $8.3 billion in health care costs through 2050.
“While environmental groups were forced to make compromises, make no mistake- these bills make significant progress,” said Jameson. “They will cut climate pollution and establish Michigan as a leader in combating climate change. The success of these historic bills is due to the hard work of countless environmental advocates and we thank them and the Michigan Legislature for the passage of these critical bills.”
The bills include these key wins:
- Michigan utilities must produce 100% carbon-free energy by 2040, with 60% of that coming from renewable sources by 2035. The legislation also raises the allowance for rooftop solar on the electrical grid from 1% to 10%, and it requires utilities to dramatically scale up their energy storage capacity over the next five years (essential to ensure grid reliability). [SB271]
- Barriers to renewable energy development are reduced. The Michigan Public Service Commission would take jurisdiction over the siting of some large-scale solar projects, while also ensuring that communities reap benefits from the projects and local communities still have a voice. [HB 5120, 5121]
- Residents will get a lot more help making their homes more energy efficient and low-income Michiganders will have guaranteed programs to help them save money. Both electric and gas companies will have to increase the size of their energy efficiency programs, and municipal utilities and co-ops are once again required to offer these programs to their customers. The legislation establishes a bold minimum investment level in low-income communities (25% for electricity and 35% for gas programs) ensuring that the households that need the most affordable energy are benefiting from these programs. [SB 273]
- Climate, health, equity and affordability will be included in utilities’ long-range plans for the first time. The Michigan Public Service Commission will be allowed to consider affordability and environmental and public health impacts in Integrated Resource Plans. These plans must now minimize adverse effects on human health due to power generation and drive benefits of the clean energy transition to low-income and BIPOC communities. The legislation focuses on the reduction of localized air pollutants, with a priority on improvements in communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and other environmental harms and would prevent 1,000 deaths. [SB 502]
- Citizen access to the regulatory process is significantly expanded. Funding for citizen interventions in Michigan Public Service Commission proceedings is tripled, and resources for the Attorney General to represent consumers is doubled. The MPSC is also required to host at least four public meetings annually to actively seek input and feedback directly from Michiganders. [SB 502]
- The state will monitor and support the community and worker transition to a clean energy economy. The legislation creates a new Office of Just Transition within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity with a mission of assisting workers and communities during the state’s renewable energy transition. The office will develop a statewide transition plan and have funding to support implementation. [SB 519]
Read the Environmental Council's detailed analysis on the bills, including how they compare to our target policies and the status quo.