Clean energy package passes Senate committee on party lines following modifications ⋆
Members of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee voted on Wednesday to recommend a package of bills setting new priorities for the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and creating new clean energy and waste reduction goals.
Ahead of votes, state Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) outlined changes to the bills since the previous committee meeting, including adjustments to clean energy and waste reduction targets and a shift away from the carbon-free definition used in previous versions.
Senate Bill 271, sponsored by state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), would now require energy companies to generate 50% of their energy through renewable means by the beginning of 2030 and 60% by 2035. The bill would also create a clean energy standard that begins in 2035 and would include nuclear and natural gas with carbon capture of 90%. This standard would increase to 100% by 2040.
The bill would also raise the state’s cap on distributed energy generation to 10%, Singh said. Under current state law energy companies are only required to purchase 1% of their average yearly peak load from customers generating their own energy.
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Senate Bill 273, sponsored by Singh, would increase the state’s energy waste reduction standard for electrical sources from 1% to 1.5% with a goal of 2%. It would also slightly increase the .75% to .85% with incentives for waste reduction of over 1%.
Energy companies would also be required to direct 25% of their total energy waste reduction spending to low-income communities.
While the bills did not contain everything they had initially discussed, Singh said the bills presented to the committee came about through dialogue to find common ground on the legislation.
State Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp.) broke down changes to her own Senate Bill 502, which would instruct the MPSC to balance factors like reliability, safety and resilience of energy systems, service quality, affordability, as well as goals focused on ensuring equitable access to energy efficiency, weatherization, home electrification and clean energy technology and compliance with state clean energy standard goals when reviewing energy companies’ plans for future operations.
It also increases funding for consumer representation in MPSC cases, Shink said.
The Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) would also issue a non-binding expanded advisory opinion for the commission to consider in its decision-making.
While DTE and Consumers Energy, two of the state’s largest energy providers, signaled a neutral stance on Senate Bills 271 and 273, they opposed Senate Bill 502 in a card submitted to the committee.
Courtney Bourgoin, Midwest senior policy and advocacy manager for Evergreen Action, said that promoting a diverse source of energy sources would help address Michigan’s energy reliability challenges by supporting the grid’s peak load needs and during power disruptions.
Additionally, Senate Bill 271’s requirement that energy companies construct, contract or require a total of 2,500 megawatts of energy storage systems by 2030 would be one of the most ambitious storage targets in the country, and would be critical for reliability and cost savings.
Following updates on the bill, the committee took votes on whether to adopt the substituted bills, and whether to refer the bills to the Senate floor for further consideration. The committee did not hear testimony or take questions on the bills prior to the vote.
The substituted bills were adopted by unanimous votes. The bills were reported out of committee on party-line votes, with Singh passing on his vote for Senate Bill 502. The committee is made up of nine Democrats and five Republicans.
Following the meeting, state Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), the committee’s minority vice chair, said the members were provided with updated bill language just before the meeting started.
While the committee sent out its agenda the evening prior, the agenda was not updated to include the bills until less than an hour before the meeting.
Senate Energy and Environment Committee Minority Vice Chair Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) at a Sept. 14, 2023 meeting. | Kyle Davidson
“They were still warm when they handed them to us. I mean, the ink’s not wet, but the paper’s still warm,” Lauwers said.
“It would have been nice to ask some questions. You know, just to find out what’s really in [the bills],” Lauwers said.
Lauwers also said the policy raises concerns on reliability and energy costs.
“I think what we should be doing is incentivizing with goals and not mandating results,” Lauwers said.
When asked about the decision to move forward on the updated bills without testimony, committee Chair Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) said there had been extensive stakeholder discussions over weeks if not months in an attempt to craft a compromise.
“I think we reached a juncture where we felt like we could move it forward,” McCann said.
“I’m sure there are some who would like to just see this process go on without end, but we owe clean air to Michigan citizens and clean energy, and so we can’t wait any longer. So we’re moving it,” McCann said.
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authored by Kyle Davidson
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