Lawmakers want Michigan 100% off fossil fuels sooner than all but 1 other state – MLive.com

A view of a 1.7-megawatt solar array expected to produce between 15% and 17% of year-round electricity needs at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls.Photo Provided By Boyne Mountain Resort
LANSING, MI – Lawmakers in control of Michigan’s House want the state to be completely done burning fossil fuels for energy by 2035 as the effects of climate change continue.
Democratic state representatives from across Michigan introduced their clean energy bill package this week, a plan to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs for Michiganders. The proposed legislation would force utilities off fossil fuels faster than planned and require them to invest more heavily in energy efficiencies and reduced costs for lower-income households.
The House bill package closely resembles a similar bill package introduced in the state Senate in April.
During a press conference on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, state representatives who sponsored the bills did not balk at the challenge of accelerating the ongoing clean energy transition in Michigan.
“Yes, this is bold but we’re in dire times, so I think that calls for an aggressive set of plans to combat that,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia.
She said recent extreme weather that caused widespread and lengthy power outages, air quality degraded by wildfires, and record-high temperatures collectively make it clear now is the time to preserve the environment and update the energy grid.
Related: As climate warms, Michigan can expect more smoke and unsafe air
“We have no other option,” Pohutsky said.
Michigan House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, said voters last November elected a “common sense climate majority,” and now lawmakers are now pressing forward climate action goals to “meet the moment” with this bill package.
“Frankly, it’s a real opportunity for us to build a strong, robust economy for decades to come. I’m not talking about one-off jobs, but established careers for folks that can finally look at ways as we come out of this pandemic, to build strong paying jobs for their communities and also protecting the planet,” Aiyash said.
The first bill in the package sponsored by state Rep. Betsy Coffia, D-Traverse City, would set a renewable energy standard for Michigan of 60% by 2030 and a target of 100% carbon-free energy by 2035 – which would be the fastest statewide carbon-free goal in the nation, behind just Rhode Island by only two years.
That’s a far more ambitious goal than those Gov. Gretchen Whitmer set with her Michigan climate plan at 60% renewable sources by 2030 and carbon-neutral by 2050.
Carbon-free means no emissions at all, while carbon-neutral means offsetting emissions with carbon reductions like reforestation projects.
Coffia said the state’s renewable energy standard has not been updated in nearly a decade and there’s no time to waste.
“Times have changed. Our situation has changed for climate and unfortunately it has worsened. We need to join half of the states in the country, including Minnesota and Illinois, in actually codifying bold steps to decarbonize our electric grid with setting standards,” Coffia said.
The two largest utilities in Michigan already have plans to retire certain fossil fuel-burning power plants, yet the companies are investing in others and planning to burn gas longer.
For example, Consumers Energy intends to retire all coal-burning power plants by 2025 but continue to use natural gas to generate at least 10 % of its electricity through 2040 and maybe beyond, as it builds out its fleet of solar and wind power.
DTE Energy plans to retire two coal-fired units at its plant in Monroe in 2028, followed by ending all coal use there by 2035. However, the company plans to replace the facility with natural gas, or a new technology combined with carbon capture, renewable sources, and energy storage.
Both utilities have net-zero carbon goals set for 2050.
Officials at Consumers Energy said these bills are unnecessary.
“Consumers Energy is already accelerating the transition to cleaner generation, improving the quality of Michigan’ water, land, and air resources. Actions matter, which is why we recently announced a sweeping proposal to stop using coal as a fuel source for electricity by 2025 – 15 years faster than currently planned,” said Katie Carey, company spokesperson.
Carey said the company just this month shut down two coal units at the Dan E. Karn Generating Plant outside Bay City, and the utility’s current plans will make it among the first nationwide to go coal-free and involves significant buildout of solar, storage, and energy efficiency investments.
DTE officials said they are looking forward to implementing key elements of the state’s climate plan.
“As the largest investor in renewable energy in Michigan, we are well positioned (to) facilitate the economy-wide decarbonization that the governor’s plan envisions,” according to a company statement.
Officials also noted DTE has a robust energy efficiency program that will play a fundamental role in helping to achieve those goals.
Other bills in the House clean energy package include one sponsored by Pohutsky that would allow the Michigan Public Service Commission to consider climate factors, energy affordability, and equity issues in its decision-making when utility companies seek new energy projects, rate changes, and more.
A bill sponsored by Aiyash would update and expand energy waste rules for utilities and require those companies to prioritize lower-income communities to benefit from energy efficiency investments.
Environmental advocacy groups touted the move as innovative leadership.
“If the Michigan Legislature acts swiftly and decisively on climate and clean energy legislation, we can seize the opportunity of a growing economic sector while achieving a healthier future for our communities,” said Derrell Slaughter, Michigan clean energy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Tim Minotas, deputy legislative and political director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, said the introduced bills come at a critical time when Michigan residents are grappling with real impacts of climate change, an unreliable power grid, and unaffordable energy costs.
Related articles:
Amid wildfire smoke, Michigan leaders signal support for new clean energy standard
Senate Democrats propose moving Michigan to 100% clean energy by 2035
Ice storms reorder Michigan Democrats’ energy and climate agenda
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