Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has recently approved the Clean Energy and Jobs Act, comprising a set of bills that mandate utilities to achieve 100% clean energy sales by 2040. This makes Michigan the 12th state to enforce such a commitment.
Economic Boost and Clean Energy Growth
Governor Whitmer emphasized that the clean energy legislation is anticipated to generate over 160,000 jobs in Michigan. The state had already witnessed a 5% surge in clean energy and transportation employment in the previous year.
Emissions-Free Mandate and Energy Mix
Senate Bill 271, a key component of the legislation, outlines a 100% emissions-free mandate, directing utilities to derive a minimum of 60% of their electricity from renewable sources like solar\ and wind. The remaining 40% can be fulfilled through nuclear power, hydrogen fuel, and natural gas coupled with carbon capture.
Debates Over Inclusion of Natural Gas
While environmental advocates applaud the significant reliance on renewables, some critics argue that including natural gas with carbon capture is counterproductive due to inefficiency and high costs. Juan Jhong-Chung, co-executive director of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, pointed out that carbon capture technology does not address the air pollution linked to burning natural gas.
Jhong-Chung expressed concerns, stating, “What the bill does is actually redefine what counts as clean energy. It’s repackaging natural gas as a clean energy source. To us, 100% clean energy by 2040 is not going to be 100% clean.”
Milestones and Mandates
The legislation includes several milestones, such as:
- Requiring utilities to obtain 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2029, increasing to 50% by 2030 and 60% by 2035.
- Implementing an energy storage standard of 2.5GW by 2030.
- Elevating caps on distributed energy sources like rooftop solar.
- Enhancing electric utility energy efficiency savings requirements and goals while clarifying that energy efficiency programs do not discourage building electrification.
Advocacy for Renewable Energy Commitments
Johanna Neumann, a senior director with Environment America, commented, “Once Michigan’s bill becomes law, a dozen states will have made 100% clean or renewable electricity commitments. Environment America and our state organizations will continue to campaign for 100% renewable energy commitments from state governments across the country in years to come.”