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Progress on the Road to Net Zero

This April, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) released the final version of the MI Healthy Climate Plan. This much-anticipated document lays out a series of aspirational goals that ties together each major segment of Michigan’s economy into a single plan for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

While the MI Healthy Climate Plan represents an important milestone for our state’s journey to net zero, Michigan’s efforts to reduce emissions and create a more sustainable environment are already well underway. Businesses, consumers, universities, hospitals, and energy providers, among others, are already engaging a wide range of actions to lower our state’s carbon footprint.

The MI Healthy Climate Plan builds on our state’s legacy of bipartisan energy laws by leveraging policies supported by Democrats and Republicans in legislation enacted in 2008 and 2016. The Plan also aligns with newer polices—such as the federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act—that provides funding and support for the state’s journey to net-zero.

A Roadmap for Michigan’s Clean Energy Future

The MI Healthy Climate Plan includes bold targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of clean energy. The Plan’s goals are worthy to pursue but will be challenging to achieve. They will require energy innovation, smart energy policies, and concerted effort from every participant in our economy. These goals include:

Economy-wide Decarbonization – The Plan calls for carbon-neutrality across the entire Michigan economy by 2050.

Electrifying Transportation – The Plan sets the goal of creating infrastructure to support 2 million electric vehicles (EVs) on Michigan roads by 2030.

Cleaning the Grid – The Plan calls for effectively phasing-out of the state’s remaining coal-fired power plants by 2030.

Increased Recycling – To minimize energy and materials waste, the Plan calls for recycling rates to be tripled to 45 percent by 2030.

Land Use – To leverage the environment (e.g., trees) to naturally capture greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the plan calls for protecting 30 percent of Michigan’s land and water by 2030.

Utilities will play a leading role by continuing the transition to renewable energy and natural gas, while also developing new technologies to capture carbon and store electricity. Emerging energy innovations driven by the utilities will also help other sectors of the economy reduce their carbon emissions.

Smart energy strategies are critical for Michigan’s clean energy future—and for supporting economic growth, driving job creation, and building stronger communities. Key programs and strategies supporting progress toward net zero include:

Holistic Energy System Planning – Michigan can best pursue our net zero goal, while sustaining economic growth and energy reliability, by taking a holistic approach to energy system planning. This means that our state’s energy planning must:

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) Process, overseen by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), plays an important role in establishing how utilities will reliably and cost-effectively provide energy to their customers over the long term, while meeting carbon reduction goals.

Clean Energy Goals – The MI Healthy Climate Plan sets an ambitious goal of generating 60% of our state’s energy from renewable resources by 2030. This is a challenging goal that could be pursued through a number of strategies, including through a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that would require utilities to produce 50% of their electricity with renewables by 2030. Continuing to grow voluntary green programs – such as DTE’s MIGreenPower – and customer adoption of private generation such as rooftop solar can also help Michigan reach the 60% renewable energy goal.

Consumer Programs – Several policies serve as a catalyst to help consumers save energy and cut carbon emissions. The MI Healthy Climate Plan calls for the continuation of Michigan energy efficiency programs. Since the passage of the 2008 legislation, participating consumers have saved nearly $6 billion in electricity costs and $2 billion in natural gas costs. The Plan also supports updating building codes to support broader building decarbonization, installation of EV charging stations, and proposes new incentives to encourage residents to use all-electric appliances.

Innovation – The Plan also underscores the importance of energy innovation, which will be essential for sectors of our economy that are hardest to decarbonize, including industry, buildings and housing, and agriculture. For example, research and testing are now underway to develop methods for capturing carbon emissions and safely storing them deep underground. Enhanced energy storage technology is advancing as well. Utility-scale battery energy storage systems (BESS)—battery technology on a universal scale—could play a central role in expanding the use of renewable energy and strengthening grid resiliency.

Supporting a Just and Economically Beneficial Transition to Clean Energy

The MI Healthy Climate Plan underscores that we need a just transition to clean energy that encompasses and benefits all Michiganders, including underserved communities. We can only become a stronger, healthier state by supporting environmental justice and helping all communities overcome the challenges that will arise as we transform our economy and energy grid.

Economic policies can also impact our state’s progress to net zero. Last year, Michigan enacted bipartisan economic development legislation to attract investments in electric vehicle (EV) and battery manufacturing, such as the $2.5 billion GM battery plant in the Lansing area, which is expected to create more than 1,700 jobs, and Ford’s recent commitment of a $2 billion investment in EV-related and other activities across five plants in Southeast Michigan, creating more than 3,200 jobs. Michigan’s journey to net zero can serve as an economic engine, creating jobs and bringing investments to the state.

All sectors of Michigan’s economy will need to embrace change to help cut carbon emissions, and it won’t always be easy. With the MI Healthy Climate Plan providing bold goals and ideas, we’re headed in the right direction.

Join the Conversation

How do you plan to help Michigan reach net zero carbon emissions? Do you participate in a Voluntary Green Program? Do you see yourself using an electric vehicle in the future? Join the conversation on Facebook and share your thoughts and questions about the MI Healthy Climate Plan as well.