Jessica Mathews /

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed historic clean energy legislation on Tuesday that aims to make Michigan a national leader in the fight against climate change.

The Governor said the bills will lower household utility costs, create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, and protect Michigan’s air, water, and public health. It’s one of the nation’s most ambitious clean energy mandates, aiming to be carbon-free by 2040.

Michigan is joining four other states in requiring utility providers to transition to 100% carbon-free energy generation by 2040 under the new legislation. The state has also set a goal for utilities to generate 50% of their energy from renewable sources by 2030 - a significant leap from the current 12%.

It’s said to be a pivotal test of the Democrats’ environmental goals in a state with a long-standing manufacturing legacy. The state-level mandates support the Biden administration's goals of a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.

The clean energy package, which was approved by Democrats in the Michigan Legislature this month, has been lauded by environmental groups that hope
Michigan’s plan serves as a model for other states.

Almost every Republican in the House voted against the Clean Energy Future Package.

Republicans, including some locally, have criticized the new energy laws saying they will effectively ban natural gas and mandate more wind and solar – leading utility companies to raise rates and make electricity less reliable.

Meeting the 50% renewable energy goal by 2030, and 60% five years later, will require a massive buildout of utility-scale renewable energy resources in Michigan. To achieve that, the state’s Public Service Commission will have the authority to supersede local governments in approving large projects.

The new laws grant the state the authority to override local decisions to allow farmers and property owners to house wind and solar projects on their land. The provision quickly became the package's most contentious element.

A local government coalition, including the Michigan Association of Counties, has strongly opposed it, with the Michigan Township Association arguing it stifles the input of local officials and residents in communities where the facilities would operate for the next several decades.

Three Republican lawmakers who represent Livingston County have spoken out against the new energy mandates that they say strip control away from local communities; Senator Lana Theis of Brighton Township, State Representative Ann Bollin of Brighton Township, and State Representative Bob Bezotte of Marion Township.

Some local municipalities were also in opposition. The Putnam Township Board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the legislature's attempts to preempt local control when it comes to the placement of large-scale renewable energy projects such as solar farms, wind turbines, and utility-scale battery storage for solar and wind projects.

Supervisor Dennis Brennan earlier told WHMI “Every township will be affected as their zoning ordinances will no longer be enforceable when it comes to these projects. This would be a slap in the face to local governing bodies throughout the state, many of whom have passed renewable energy ordinances over the past few years”.

Whitmer has previously stated “It's your land, you should have the freedom to use it however you want”.

Just over 17,000 acres of land in the state are currently used for wind and solar generation, according the Michigan Public Service Commission. It says an additional 209,000 acres of land would be needed for projects to hit the 60% renewable energy goal.

More information about the new plan is available in the top attached release.

Previous statements from Theis and Bezotte are attached, while Bollin’s statement can be accessed via the provided link.