Establish Michigan as a Climate Leader

Michigan takes first step toward leading the way with clean energy legislation.

In November 2023, the Michigan Legislature took a leap forward with the passage of a landmark, six-bill policy package that reduces barriers to a more robust renewable energy portfolio, expands regulatory authority for utility accountability, and helps consumers save energy at home. Only the 11th state to bring such legislation to reality, Michigan laid the foundation for true renewable energy leadership, despite a long road still ahead for real and equitable climate solutions.

See below a legislative summary by bill, compiled by Acuitas, and for further reading, check out this breakdown by our partners at Michigan Environmental Council.

BILL PACKAGE SUMMARY

SB 271 (Geiss) amends the Clean and Renewable Energy and Energy Waste Reduction Act, to make revisions related to clean and renewable energy requirements and make related changes to defined terms or other substantive provisions. The bill also includes provisions related to energy storage and increases the cap on distributed generation.

SB 273 (Singh) amends the Clean and Renewable Energy and Energy Waste Reduction Act to incorporate provisions related to energy waste reduction plans, efficient electrification measures, low-income energy waste reduction programs, alternative compliance training, and workforce diversity.

SB 277 (McDonald Rivet) amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to codify the current MDARD policy that allows a solar facility to be a permitted use for the purpose of a farmland development rights agreement. The bill specifies that the solar facility would have to meet certain conditions and that a landowner could not claim the tax credit allowed while a solar facility was active.

SB 502 (Shink) amends the enabling act for the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC)to increase the amounts that utility companies must pay in cost recovery cases, revises certain requirements for integrated resource plans (IRPs), provides certain public engagement requirements, and requires consideration of environmental justice impacts in certain circumstances.

SB 519 (Singh) creates a new act, the Community and Worker Economic Transition Act, to provide for the creation of a state entity to develop a plan regarding and coordinating efforts addressing the impact on workers and communities of the societal and economic shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy resources.

HB 5120 (Aiyash) adds wind, solar, and storage certification to the Clean and Renewable Energy and Waste Reduction Act. It would allow an electric provider or an independent power producer (IPP) to apply to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) tor a certificate to construct a wind, solar, or energy storage facility that had at least 100 megawatts of generational capacity; it would also allow an affected local governmental unit to request that the MPSC require a provider or IPP to undergo the certification process. A granted certificate would preempt a zoning ordinance and other local regulations or rules that prohibited or more restrictively regulated an energy facility. This legislation would also prohibit a zoning ordinance imposed after an application was filed with the MPSC from being construed as a limit or impairment on a facility. An application for a certificate would have to include a comprehensive site plan. This demonstration affected local governments and specified State departments had been consulted in its preparation, and financial assurances, among other things. An application would have to undergo an MPSC contested case proceeding, and the MPSC would have to issue a certificate or deny an application within a year of the application filing. The MPSC would have to approve a certificate based on the energy facility meeting environmental, safety, labor, and setback requirements.

HB 5121 (Puri) amends the Michigan Loning Enabling Act to subject a zoning ordinance to comply with the changes to the Clean and Renewable Energy and Waste Reduction Act outlined in HB 5!20. In addition, this legislation would require a renewable energy project that received present or former special land use approval to meet specific requirements.

 

Moving Michigan Forward: Holding the Applause Despite Your Mountain of Support

To enact lasting, generational change and establish Michigan as a climate leader, keep the state competitive, and implement the MI Healthy Climate Plan, we need bold policies that address renewable, affordable, reliable, and equitable power production. For months, we fought for those policies, and we asked all of you – as citizens, businesses, school personnel, public officials – to sign on and show up to demonstrate to our legislators the broad and durable public support that exists for the renewable energy economy. We are grateful to everyone who stuck with us in advocating for the strongest energy legislation possible.

Day of Action

In coalition with pro-clean energy partners from across the state, MiCAN called for passage of the key goals outlined in the Clean Energy Future Plan (see right), intended to clean Michigan's power sector rapidly, affordably, and reliably – but not without additional environmental justice considerations as defined by the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. Our grassroots campaign helped garner almost 500 attendees to the Clean Energy Future Day of Action at the Capitol, yielded 426 signatures for the legislative Plan (below left), and gained 177 supporters in solidarity with our climate justice partners (below right).

Energy Bill Sign-OnsEnvironmental Justice Supporters

But, shortly after our impressive turnout on the Capitol lawn in Lansing, pressure from big utilities quickly corroded our progress. Lawmakers landed on significantly watered down drafts of the original bills.

What we have gained, as of early November 2023, after the Michigan House passed a revised version of the Senate package, are standards that would require at least 60% renewable energy by 2035, increases the cap on distributed energy from 1% to 10%, and requires the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to take climate, justice, affordability, and health into account when considering utilities future plans. Additionally, House Bills 5120-5123 would change the approval process for large wind and solar arrays, shifting authority from local government to the MPSC.

So, why aren't we celebrating? MiCAN’s strategic plan calls for dramatic declines in disparities in environmental burdens, and commits us to equitable solutions that uplift the voices of the most impacted. All three major environmental justice groups have opposed the substance of the package and raise serious procedural justice concerns. We concur with their stance against the false solutions included – like biogas from factory farms, waste incineration, nuclear energy, and natural gas with carbon capture – in the problematic definition of 100% ‘clean’ energy by 2040. And, we will continue to support policies that still await legislative attention, like enabling widespread community solar so that all Michiganders can benefit from renewable energy. 

With so many left behind, and so much not included, we invite everyone to join us in building and mobilizing an inclusive network that establishes Michigan as a climate leader without sacrificing any communities within.

 

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