Michigan enacts one of country's boldest energy laws - 100% clean energy standard by 2040

Clean energy legislation seven years in the making was signed into law Tuesday after the Michigan governor convened a big gathering in Detroit to commemorate the big day.

Proponents of the massive overhaul say it will reduce pollution in communities, boost savings on energy costs, add thousands of new jobs, while setting the state's climate agenda toward producing a 100% of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2040.

The historic bill signing, which at times felt more like a rally than a typical day in government, Gretchen Whitmer put pen to paper in Eastern Market. She was there alongside the lieutenant governor to mark the big day.

"No matter how difficult or complex our problems may seem, they are man made," Garlin Gilchrist said. "If it’s a man-made problem, that means that we can have people driven solutions."

While it was the government big wigs that headlined the day, it was Zaria Coleman that stole the show. The Wayne State University activist says she's been pushing for climate change legislation in Detroit's Black communities for years.

"There was a lot of people advocating for this change for Black people, but there wasn’t a lot of people in those spaces," Coleman said. "I feel like our voice is being heard but this is not the end of the fight at all."

The legislation aims to boost clean energy production by pulling on certain levers of government. One way is by empowering the Michigan Public Service Commission to plan large-scale solar power projects. That task was previously taken up by local governments. 

Critics argue wresting control from townships and counties will harm local communities. But advocates say the decision is best left to the commission that regulates energy production in the state.

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Sara Mills, who manages the University of Michigan's partnership with the state's Office of Climate and Energy, said it's a tactic that other states have taken and can expedite large projects - which can occasionally backfire. 

"When the siting bills take effect, no doubt more large wind and solar projects will be built. Long term, however, we could see those projects move forward against some host communities' wishes. This situation would only reinforce the idea that renewables are foisted upon rural communities without consent, further stoking the urban-rural divide," she said in a statement issued by the school.

The new law was also hailed as a job grower since it will boost clean energy jobs. Federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will be drawn down to help finance those projects.

The 2040 target date aims for the state to produce all of its energy from clean sources. To reach that threshold, the state has set benchmarks of 50% clean energy by 2030 and 60% by 2035. Currently, the state produces 12% of its energy from renewable sources - mostly from wind.


Michigan energy package sets 2040 deadline for 100% clean power, strips local groups of large projects

Michigan's new energy package sets a deadline for 100% clean energy production by 2040. It also strips local governments of the authority to rule on large-scale wind and solar projects.

Proponents also pitched the law as one of savings. 

Currently, the average monthly utility bill in Michigan is more than $400. In Detroit, it's about $200, which adds up to about $2,300 a year - slightly more than the national average. But the new law estimates utility costs will be cut by $145 annually. 

Connecticut, New York, Oregon and Minnesota all share Michigan’s timeline of being carbon-free by 2040 while Rhode Island has set a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2033, according to the Clean Energy States Alliance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.