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Michigan considers requiring 100% renewable energy by 2035, a goal far from current generation

Proposed legislation doesn’t explain how Michigan will reach goal when it currently gets only 11% of its net electricity generation from renewables.

Published: December 23, 2022 9:40am

Updated: December 23, 2022 11:03pm

(The Center Square) -

A Democratic leader’s bill aims to require Michigan to use 100% renewable energy by 2035.

The bill doesn’t explain how Michigan will advance from renewables providing only 11% of Michigan's net electricity generation in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, to 100% in 15 years.

Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the bill was “doomed to fail” because of unrealistic expectations.

“How is it possible for someone to think that you could go from 11% to 100% in 15 years?” Hayes said in a phone interview.

Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, proposed House Bill 6524. Rabhi, the House minority floor leader, hasn’t responded to a request for comment. The bill says the state would implement incremental increases until eventually reaching 100% renewable energy. Starting in 2021-2024, Michigan would use 15% and scale up to 100% by 2035.

Written into the bill are many exceptions - land-use permits, zoning, environmental permits, government approvals, high costs, shortages, costs, availability, time requirements, labor shortages, court orders, or unreliable systems.

“I’m not exactly sure why you would write a bill like this and then recognize it’s probably doomed to fail, but that section is in the bill,” Hayes said.

Hayes said that the state often falls short of these goals, so it buys regulatory credits from such companies as Tesla with a surplus to reach the goal from an accounting standpoint.

“Either way, these goals cost a lot of money because if you’re going to install wind and solar, you’re going to spend to do it,” Hayes said.

Hayes said that the problem with relying solely on wind and solar to generate electricity is that the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t constantly shine, only providing intermittent energy that requires reliable backup energy sources such as natural gas.

It’s unclear whether DTE would continue operating it’s new $1 billion natural gas plant in East China Township under the bill’s goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2035. DTE said the Blue Water Energy Center, plus expanding renewables, has reduced carbon emissions by 30% and advances toward a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Hayes said it would waste money to stop using the plant by 2035.

“It seems like a huge waste of money to spend that much money on something that has a 30-40 year life cycle, and then toss it 15-20 years before you reach that life cycle, ” Hayes said.

On Nov. 29, 2022, Rabhi introduced House Joint Resolution Y, which describes the state’s intent to take over electric and natural gas utilities via buying, bonding, or eminent domain.

Tracy Wimmer is a Consumers Energy spokeswoman. Wimmer said the company will work with elected officials on renewable energy standards as long as it's done within reason for all parties. Consumer aims to reach 60% of electric capacity via renewable energy by 2040 under its Clean Energy Plan.

“Our aggressive goal takes into consideration both our responsibility to our planet and to our customers, and we will continue working toward meeting it,” Wimmer told The Center Square in an email.

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