UCS Urges Continued Work Toward an Equitable Clean Energy Future for Michigan

Published Nov 3, 2023

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LANSING, MICH.—Today, the Michigan House of Representatives approved energy bills—Senate Bills 271, 273 and 502—updating the state’s renewable electricity standard, energy waste reduction targets, and considerations the Michigan Public Service Commission must apply in reviewing utility electric generation plans, but many crucial policies were left out of the legislation. These bills will return to the Senate, which had already approved an earlier version of the legislation, for final confirmation before being sent to the governor for her signature. To complete the job, state legislators and the governor must prioritize important measures that would increase affordability, environmental justice, utility accountability and community solar.

Below is a statement by James Gignac, Midwest senior policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS):

“For too long, Michigan has experienced some of the highest consumer electricity rates and the worst power outages in the Midwest region. While the recently passed legislation offers some progress toward ensuring big utilities stick to their plans to increase clean energy, numerous crucial policies were either significantly weakened or left out of the legislation completely. It’s imperative that state legislators and the governor adopt and implement policies that increase electricity affordability, further environmental justice, and enable community-owned solar power.

“In the lead up to passage of this legislation, utility companies exerted their influence to protect their bottom-lines, and they need to be held accountable for profiting from dangerous pollution and holding Michigan back from the benefits that come with a just and equitable clean energy future. We call on the state legislature and the governor to continue the unfinished work and ensure that every person in Michigan has access to clean, reliable and affordable electricity.”

Below are complementary policies UCS is urging Michigan decisionmakers to swiftly advance:

  • Empower Michigan communities to participate in and directly benefit from clean energy development by requiring utilities to allow community solar and offering better incentives for ratepayers to install rooftop solar.
  • Require the Michigan Public Service Commission to consider climate, equity, affordability, and environmental justice in all cases before the commission, particularly rate cases.
  • Enact policies that cap individual utility bills if the household income is below a certain level and increase the amount of compensation available to low-income customers who suffer outages.
  • Require that cumulative impacts, or the full spectrum of pollution sources, are considered in policies and permitting regulations.
  • Ban investor-owned utilities from using ratepayer dollars for political contributions and enact other lobbying-related ethics reforms to ensure monopoly companies do not have outsized influence blocking measures that support a cleaner, more affordable and just energy system.

Additional Resources and Analyses:

  • An earlier UCS blogpost and guest commentary by Gignac discussing equitable energy policy priorities.
  • An analysis by UCS, the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC), and other project partners that found achieving 100-percent renewable electricity standards in U.S. Climate Alliance states, including Michigan, is feasible and would produce significant health and economic benefits.
  • A UCS/MEJC fact sheet, On the Road to 100 Percent Renewables for Michigan, outlines how the state could meet its electricity needs completely and equitably with renewable energy by 2035, and dramatically reduce fossil fuel use in vehicles and buildings.