On November 28, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bills that will revamp electricity generation in the state.

The new measures include a requirement for utilities to achieve a 100% clean energy standard by 2040. The measures also transfer authority over large-scale wind and solar projects from local governments to the state’s Public Service Commission.

Whitmer emphasized that Michigan is well-equipped, both in terms of its workforce and the newly enacted legislation, to foster robust economic growth in the clean energy sector. The impact of the new laws will be felt in areas such as project locations, electricity sources, and power bills, though there is disagreement about the financial implications.

Whitmer claimed that the measures would lead to a $145 annual reduction in household energy costs. Meanwhile, Republicans argued that banning fossil fuels in Michigan would make life more expensive, as renewable project costs would be passed on to customers.

Whitmer is basing her optimism on the projected decline in the cost of renewable energy generation. A UK study earlier this year forecasted that solar generation costs would decline 60% between 2020 and 2050.

The 100% clean energy requirement

According to The Detroit News, the bills will require Michigan utilities to obtain 80% of their power from clean energy sources between 2035 and 2039. By 2040, the Michigan grid must be 100% clean, and fossil fuels will be banned.

The legislation defines renewable sources like wind and solar as clean energy sources. Other power sources that are considered clean include nuclear power and natural gas systems with high carbon capture capabilities. Natural gas systems must be able to capture at least 90% of their emissions to be considered clean.

The laws have attracted criticism from environmental groups for their endorsement of carbon capture technology. Many environmentalists consider carbon capture to be an impractical solution to climate change.

Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that companies will need to spend $3.5 trillion on carbon capture to limit global warming. This is equivalent to the global oil and gas industry’s entire annual sales.

Simplifying clean energy project approval

The bills also streamline the process for launching large-scale wind and solar projects across Michigan. State officials view the growing opposition at the local level, particularly in rural areas, as a significant obstacle to the clean energy transition.

At present, local government entities such as townships, cities, and counties possess the authority to establish zoning regulations and other policies that impede the development of large wind and solar projects within their jurisdictions.

This has been a recurring issue in Michigan, as demonstrated in Keene Township in Ionia County. Township officials, who previously supported a solar project capable of generating 100 megawatts of energy across 500 acres, were subjected to a recall earlier this year.

The new laws grant the Michigan Public Service Commission, a state-level entity composed of three appointees of the governor, the authority to approve large-scale wind and solar projects. This provides developers with an alternative route to bypass resistance at the local level.

Critics argue that these changes will erode local control. However, proponents believe they will protect personal property rights, allowing landowners who wish to host wind and solar projects to proceed without obstruction.

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