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Michigan House OKs wind, solar site override, 2040 carbon neutral plan

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(The Center Square) – The Michigan House passed bills aiming for Michigan to be 100% carbon neutral by 2040 and for the state to override local opposition to large wind and solar large-scale projects.

In a roughly 15-hour session, the House passed Senate Bills 271, 273, 277, 502, and 519, which seek to enact a carbon-neutral energy standard by 2040, among other things.

SB 519 aims to create a fifth new government agency, the Community and Worker Economic Transition Office, since 2020 to help people who lose their jobs from the pivot from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The proposed department within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity would help workers and communities displaced in the auto, construction and energy sectors during the renewable energy transition.

The package is paired with House Bills 5120, 5121, 5122, and 5123, which aim to give the Michigan Public Service Commission power to override local opposition to wind or solar energy facilities and energy storage facilities with a capacity of 100 megawatts or more. The process will, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, preempt local zoning or regulation of such facilities.

In 2021, renewables provided only 11% of Michigan’s net electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Michigan is currently retiring energy sources that provided more than 60% of electricity generation in 2021, counting coal and other plants.

The bills seek to require an electric provider to achieve a clean energy portfolio of 80% in 2035 through 2039 and 100% in 2040 and after.

Rep. Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, said the bills would lead to increased energy costs that will “burden Michigan families and impede the businesses who employ Michigan workers.”

“This radical plan will ban natural gas, close power plants, and depend too much on fluctuating, unreliable wind and solar energy — and let Gov. Whitmer’s administration ignore local decisions and force wind and solar farms in rural Michigan communities to make their blackout nightmare a reality,” Hall said in a statement.

Rep. Emily Dievendorf, D-Lansing, posted on social media that the plan will make Michigan “a leader” in renewable energy.

“Tonight the legislature is burning the midnight oil to pass a clean energy package that will make MI a leader on renewable energy goals while passing solar siting legislation that incorporates community input and planning into the process. More and better thru Democracy.”

The National Federation of Independent Business opposed the bills that move toward the elimination of non-renewable fuels.

“Small business owners strive to be good stewards of our environment, however, massive shifts in energy policy with arbitrary dates and without proper infrastructure and technology to support these policies could not only have negative consequences for small businesses, but all Michiganders,” NFIB Michigan State Director Amanda Fisher said in a statement.

Fisher says the state should fix its crumbling infrastructure before trying to advance energy policy. A 2023 American Society of Civil Engineers report card gave Michigan’s energy grid a D, citing the continuing increase in reliability issues since 2018.

The bills move to the Senate.

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