A look at Michigan’s new clean energy legislation

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer signs new clean energy legislation into law. Source: Michigan.gov
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signs new clean energy legislation into law. Source: Michigan.gov

On November 28th, 2023, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into effect the Clean Energy and Climate Action Package, a set of four bills meant to transition Michigan’s energy grid to renewables by 2040. These new measures are a part of Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan and place Michigan next to over twenty other US states making plans for more clean energy standards within the next couple of decades. In a press release, the governor highlighted the positive impact the package will have on the state: “Together, we are fighting for our air, land, and water, improving public health and protecting our precious natural resources for future generations. We are building the future in Michigan.” 


The four signed bills, which will go into effect before the end of 2024, include:


  • Senate Bill 273, which will require an increase in energy efficiency savings from 1% to 1.5% for utilities in Michigan;
  • Senate Bill 502, which requires the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to prioritize new goals including service quality, affordability, cost-effectiveness and equitable access when reviewing utility-integrated resource plans, and increases accessibility for public participation in MPSC cases;
  • Senate Bill 519, which creates the Michigan Community and Worker Economic Transition Office in the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to assist workers and communities in the transition from fossil fuels to electric technology; and
  • Senate Bill 277, which codifies a current state rule allowing farmers to lease their land for solar projects while staying enrolled in the state’s farmland preservation program. 


Some of the package’s major focuses include increased energy storage and efficiency standards throughout the state, increased support for energy workers and their communities, and the requirement for energy utilities to obtain an 80% “clean energy” portfolio within the next two decades. The aim is to create more opportunities for renewable energy usage and decarbonization of utilities through the state. 


These changes are making strides in the fight against climate change in Michigan; however, not everyone is in favor of the bill's contents in their entirety, and some aspects of the package are receiving criticism from politicians and environmental groups. For one, S.B. 271 states that “clean energy” includes nuclear and fossil ‘natural’ gas power, neither of which are actually clean. Another topic of criticism for the bills was the possibility that this change over the next couple of decades could increase energy costs for Michigan companies and Michigan residents, although this point has arguments on both sides.  

For UP residents, lack of local control over renewables infrastructure has been a key point of opposition against the package. Specifically under fire is S.B. 502, since it gives the MPSC authority to bypass local governments when placing renewable energy projects. State Rep. Greg Markkanen (R-Houghton) spoke on Yoopers' desire for freedom while also maintaining access to affordable and reliable energy; so much of the Upper Peninsula is undeveloped, and many UP residents don’t want to see those natural areas taken away for solar and wind farms.


The Michigan Healthy Climate Plan, along with the Clean Energy and Climate Action Package, demonstrate a desire within Michigan’s state government to advocate for the health of our environment. The job is nowhere near done, as there are still issues needing to be addressed in the current system and important points not addressed in these bills. Ultimately, though, this plan represents significant progress toward mitigating climate change and creating more opportunities for clean energy use across the state - as well as the collaboration between state leaders and environmental advocates towards a cleaner Michigan in the future. 

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