OPINION: How Minnesota is winning on clean energy, and how Michigan can catch up 

Minnesota advocates and legislators passed a transformative clean energy standard into law in the first few weeks of 2023. Unfortunately, Michigan is still back at the starting line.

On November 8, 2022, voters in both Minnesota and my home state of Michigan turned out in droves to elect clean energy leaders to both state legislatures and governorships, creating unprecedented potential for bold climate action.

Minnesota immediately capitalized on the opportunity, passing a transformative clean energy standard into law in the first few weeks of 2023. The legislation, which mandates 100 percent carbon-free power by 2040, will lead to cleaner air, healthier communities, family-supporting jobs, and a more resilient grid against dangerous outages.

With a clear and ambitious decarbonization target on the books, Minnesota advocates and legislators pivoted to focus on the details of the clean energy transition and passed provisions to ensure that benefits are felt equitably. Unfortunately, Michigan is still back at the starting line. If we don’t make major strides soon, we’re at risk of falling further and further behind. 

While Minnesota is now firmly on the path to 100 percent clean power, Michigan’s renewable portfolio standard still sits at a meager 15 percent. Governor Whitmer has made laudable efforts to be more aggressive in our decarbonization targets and, via executive order, committed the state to carbon neutrality by 2050. The Whitmer Administration released the MI Healthy Climate Plan, a roadmap for meeting those clean energy targets.

Unfortunately, while the legislature remained controlled by lawmakers who have historically obstructed clean energy progress, the MI Healthy Climate Plan was little more than a wish list. Though we now have the votes to meet and exceed the governor’s targets, we have yet to utilize them.

So far this legislative session, no clean energy bill has been passed. Even those introduced don’t come close to what’s already been accomplished in Minnesota. 

Currently, the Great Lakes State isn’t only behind on achieving clean energy targets; we’re actively stifling progress. Michigan still boasts one of the country’s most restrictive distributed energy limits, despite years of efforts by advocates and bipartisan legislators to lift the state’s one percent cap on distributed energy resources.

This year, lawmakers have once again introduced bills — Senate Bills 362 and 363 — that would end Michigan’s solar cap. Both bills await votes in the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. With a clean energy majority in both chambers since January, it’s confounding and frustrating that they have not yet sailed through to passage. 

In addition to stalling our ability to mitigate climate change, shortsighted limits on distributed generation also lead directly to expensive power outages. In 2021, outages cost our state a staggering $3.5 billion.

While many of us have come to think of power outages as simply inconvenient, a loss of electricity can wreak havoc on industries across the state.

For many of our community members — including infants, the elderly, those with health conditions, and other vulnerable individuals — lengthy outages are also dangerous. Scaling up local energy resources is an actionable solution to preventing outages and a tool for building healthier, economically secure communities. 

For the first time in decades, Michigan has a governor, House, and Senate who recognize the urgency of climate and clean energy progress. Now, we stand at a crossroads. We can either rise to this once-in-a-generation opportunity and make swift moves toward a clean, resilient Michigan — or let it slip by. I urge our elected officials in Lansing to choose action and claim a spot as a climate leader in the Midwest and the nation. 


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