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Michigan legislators focus on renewable energy, environmental protections with new energy priorities

September 21, 2023
<p> New solar panels are installed on Michigan State University&#x27;s campus over the parking lot at Hagadorn and Service Roads pictured on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. </p>

New solar panels are installed on Michigan State University's campus over the parking lot at Hagadorn and Service Roads pictured on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.

Michigan State legislators unveiled new policy goals towards clean energy and environmental protection during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's “What’s Next” address last month

During the “What’s Next” address, Whitmer and fellow state Democrats announced policy goals towards a 100% clean energy standard, improving energy efficiency as well as encouraging new energy infrastructure projects through the Michigan Public Service Commission.

These policies are announced under the MI Healthy Climate Plan, released in April 2022, and aim to display new legislation before the fall session resumes.

Whitmer seeks to reject “zero-sum thinking,” in which one person's gain is another person's loss in environmental growth. In modernizing Michigan’s energy grid and environmental protections, Whitmer claims the state protecting the environment does not have to come at the cost of economic growth, affirming “we can protect our natural resources and produce more affordable, reliable, and cleaner energy.”

“Many people ask if pushing to clean energy will make the grid less reliable when, in reality, the opposite couldn’t be more true,” Nick Occhipinti, the director of government affairs for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, said. 

According to Occhipinti, these bills are aimed at developing a reliable energy grid centered around clean energy.

Michigan currently has the highest utility prices, but the lowest reliability in the Midwest, according to Occhipinti

This unreliability is highlighted by the frequent power outages and extensive damage to infrastructure during recent storms. One part of Michigan legislature's plan to improve energy infrastructure across the state includes expanding the reach of the Michigan Public Services Commission (MPSC). 

“We are working to set targets to clean our electric grid and meet the goals laid out in the MI Healthy Climate Plan," State Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said.  "I look forward to continuing work with key stakeholders — as well as the Governor, House and our colleagues across the aisle — to get this vital legislation across the finish line." 

Singh has previously introduced the Clean Energy Future Plan alongside State Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp.), which aims to
accomplish a variety of clean energy standards such as phasing out coal-fired electricity plants, achieving higher energy waste reduction targets and reducing emissions related to heating Michigan homes.

This would also expand the reach of the MPSC to include climate, health and equity in their decision making.

The MPSC is a regulatory body that approves public utility projects. Michigan Senate Bill 502 aims to revise the jurisdiction of the MPSC to include more utility providers as well as give the group the authority to scrutinize pending developments on their ability to provide accessibility, reliability, equitable access to energy, affordability, and developments

These efforts are pointing towards Michigan’s goal of 60% of their energy stemming from renewable energy and 100% of energy coming from carbon-free sources by 2040.

These changes are made with driving climate equity and new jobs in mind, Occhipinti said

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