Navigating a Momentous Shift in Energy Policy
by Bob Hance on Friday, February 2, 2024
The state of Michigan recently passed the Clean Energy and Jobs Act, which is one of the most comprehensive and ambitious state climate plans in the country. I want to share with you some of the key items:
The Clean Energy Standard
By 2040, Michigan will produce 100% of its energy from renewable sources.
The good news is in the legislation, lawmakers recognize the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant as a vital reliability asset, allowing its output to count toward both renewable and clean energy targets. Since our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative, will be purchasing power from Palisades, that’s a huge benefit to MEC and our customers. In fact, Wolverine’s fuel mix is already over 50% carbon-free.
Last fall, Wolverine made a long-term commitment on behalf of its cooperative members to buy power from the Palisades Plant upon its restart. In the legislation, lawmakers recognize the Palisades Plant as a vital reliability asset, allowing its output to count toward both renewable and clean energy targets. Additionally, Michigan’s electric cooperatives, as a group, already power members with over 50% carbon-free energy, placing us in a better position than many to meet the carbon-free requirement.
However, the grid is interconnected. So even though Wolverine is well positioned to meet the standard, that doesn’t mean all Michigan utilities are. Constructing the large-scale projects required to meet these goals demands considerable time and financial resources, which makes the proposed timeline a challenge for the majority of the state’s electric utilities. Additionally, the challenge of land acquisition looms, with an estimated need for approximately 200,000+ additional acres for wind and solar power generation to achieve the renewable energy targets in the legislation.
We must remain aware of the concerns over electric reliability, not just as a state but nationwide, as we continue through the clean energy transition. We have in-depth information regarding this issue available on our website at teammidwest.com/reliability.
Renewable Energy Siting
This bill gives state regulators authority over renewable energy permits. It empowers the Michigan Public Service Commission to issue permits for solar systems exceeding 50 megawatts and wind systems over 100 megawatts. Formerly, localities held exclusive control over siting. The new laws centralize permitting for large projects at the state level, while smaller solar projects remain under local authority.
This doesn’t directly impact MEC because we do not build generation sources, but you’ll likely see this cropping up throughout rural Michigan.
The legislation also establishes a “community and worker economic transition office” aimed at addressing job losses for people working with fossil fuels and internal combustion engines. MEC will share more on this legislation as we continue to dive into its implications for co-ops and our customers.