Revised clean energy package passes Michigan House

Lawmakers approved bills last week that would require utilities to draw power using only “clean energy” sources by 2040.

Wind turbines

Legislation aimed at lowering Michigan’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions passed the Michigan House of Representatives last week.

After around 13 hours of meeting and voting, lawmakers approved bills that would require utilities to draw power using only “clean energy” sources by 2040.

The legislation would differentiate between renewable and clean energy. Under it, renewable energy sources like wind or solar would have to make up at least 60% of a utility’s energy portfolio.

The rest of the portfolio could be made up of “clean energy systems” that include sources like nuclear and natural gas using 90% carbon capture and storage technology.

Representative Jenn Hill (D-Marquette) said times are changing for Michigan and its energy landscape.

“If we’re powered by the sun, or powered by the wind, we are not sending money back out to Wyoming to pay for coal, or to Texas to pay for that natural gas,” Hill said in a floor speech.

Each bill in the clean energy package passed along party lines.

Early in voting, House Republicans protested when a vote on one of the bills went up before they said they had time to evaluate the legislation.

House Republicans argued the package would raise energy prices across the state, hurting households that rely upon fossil fuels and companies that draw large amounts of electricity.

Representative Graham Filler (R-St. Johns) pointed to the company Hemlock Semiconductor, located in his mid-Michigan district, and said the legislation would drive up its costs.

“That puts Hemlock Semiconductor at risk, that puts the jobs of those employees in my district at risk, that puts Michigan’s high-tech future at risk, that’s bad for my community. That’s really bad for Michigan’s manufacturing future,” Filler said.

As a way of facilitating the transition away from fossil fuels, the bill package would give state regulators the power to pre-empt local governments when it comes to approving zoning for solar and wind projects.

Republicans, including Rep. Jaime Greene (R-Richmond), derided the legislation as coming at the expense of rural residents where projects could be located.

“When the MPSC does inevitably greenlight a project against the will of the neighboring families, there is no way for residents to hold these unelected commission members accountable. This is an egregious assault on our local decision-making authority and an outright affront to democracy itself,” Greene said.

Ahead of voting Thursday night, one bill in the package, HB 5120, saw around 20 changes made.

The House-passed version of the bill was not immediately available online. But a communications staffer for the Democratic House majority explained those as making technical fixes, setting a five-year time limit for a project to start construction or risk losing a permit, and requiring projects to go through local governments first before trying state regulators.

Democrats defended the legislation as giving private landowners more flexibility to do what they want with their own land.

“There will be no instances in which the state or the locals or the MPSC or whoever conspiracy that we want to make up can come say, ‘We need to use your farm,’ and do something else with it. That’s simply not the case,” Representative Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) told reporters after the vote.

Aside from siting and setting a timeline for Michigan’s energy transition, the bills would create a new state office to help energy workers with the transition away from fossil fuels, and outline factors like environmental justice for regulators to consider when evaluating utilities’ future planning.

Some bills in the package started in the Senate and are now cleared for the governor.

The bill laying out the 2040 clean energy goal saw some House changes and will need the Senate to concur.

Meanwhile, the solar and wind siting bills began in the House and will need a Senate vote some time this week.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »