Whitmer signs package to push Michigan to 100% clean energy by 2040

Over 20 states, such as California, Louisiana, and New York have adopted energy goals that aim to eliminate emissions or offset them over the next twenty years.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed into law an extensive clean energy package that will make Michigan the second swing-state to achieve 100% clean energy by 2020. This move is widely praised by climate activists but criticised by some environmental justice organizations.

Clean Energy and Jobs Act contains several bills which would streamline the permitting process for solar and wind energy projects and improve state energy efficiency standards. The Clean Energy and Jobs Act would mandate that all state utilities switch to clean energy by 2040.

Michigan’s green economy has seen an increase in recent years, with a 5% estimated growth in jobs in clean energy and transport. Whitmer stated that the new clean energy package for Michigan will create over 160,000 additional clean jobs in Michigan’s growing green economy.

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Whitmer, who signed the bills into law on Tuesday in Detroit, said: “We will make American Energy with American workers earning wages that support families.”

Courtney Bourgoin is a policy and advocate manager for Evergreen Action. An environmental nonprofit organization.

California, Louisiana, New York and more than 20 other states have set clean energy targets aimed at eliminating or offsetting emissions within the next 20 years. Rhode Island, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, as well as the District of Columbia and other states, have set more stringent targets that require electricity to be sourced exclusively from renewable sources such a wind, solar, and hydropower.

Senate Bill 271 defines Michigan’s 100% clean-energy target. State utilities are required to convert 60% of their electricity production to renewable sources. Nuclear power, hydrogen fuel, and natural gas with carbon capture can be counted towards the remaining 40%.

Environmental justice activists criticized the bill’s inclusion of fossil fuels as “clean energy” and carbon capture technology because it is inefficient and expensive. A coalition of Michigan-based nonprofits published a letter in October condemning the package because it failed to “adequately decrease greenhouse gas emissions, while bringing even more pollution to Black and Brown communities, Indigenous people, and poor communities.”

Juan Jhong Chung, coexecutive director at the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition said that carbon-capture technology doesn’t address air pollution caused by burning natural gas. He added that local pollution is usually borne by the most vulnerable communities, who are located near power plants. These neighborhoods are often Michigan’s poorest.

Jhong-Chung explained that the bill redefines what is considered clean energy. It’s repackaging gas as clean energy. For us, 100% of clean energy by 2040 will not be 100% clean.

Ben Dueweke of Walker-Miller Energy Services in Michigan, an energy efficiency consultancy, also expressed concerns about the inclusion of carbon-capture technology in the energy package. He said that the bills would allow Michigan to be a leader in climate action within the U.S., while also restoring its reputation as a leading exporter of American products and services.

Dueweke stated, “I would love to see a standard that was 100% renewable.” Michigan has struggled in the past to pass progressive clean-energy legislation. This is a huge victory.