New Clean Energy Laws to Cut Costs for Michiganders—and Help Address Extreme Weather 

(Photo by Planet Observer/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

By Kyle Kaminski

July 28, 2023

Legislation signed into law this week by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will lower energy costs for low-income residents, help ensure the state’s natural resources are protected, and a whole lot more. 

MICHIGAN—As Michigan was battered by extreme heat this week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took Michigan a step forward in the battle against climate change, signing a series of new laws designed to promote clean energy, protect clean air and water, and lower utility bills for low-income Michiganders statewide.

“With these bills, we will help more communities unleash innovative clean energy resources, provide vital energy assistance to help families stay warm in winter, and create good-paying, high-skilled jobs right here in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement on Thursday. 

Here’s a quick overview of the newly signed legislation:

Lowering Energy Costs

Senate Bill 288 removes the sunset on the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income households with energy assistance for electricity, natural gas, and heating bills.

That program was initially supposed to have ended in 2016, but was extended through 2019 and again through Sept. 30, 2023. The legislation now makes it a permanent fixture in Michigan.

In a statement, state Sen. Sam Sing (D-East Lansing) said the legislation will benefit thousands of low-income residents and marks “an important piece of the conversation surrounding how best to ensure we’re creating an equitable, sustainable, and reliable energy future for all.”

More than 56,000 Michigan households reportedly benefited from the program last year. 

Community Solar Projects

House Bills 4317 and 4318 are the result of a new bipartisan plan to harness more energy from the sun. The legislation allows local municipalities in Michigan to opt into a new, streamlined tax system that’s designed to support the creation of new solar energy projects.

State officials said the program will cut down on red tape and costly, time-consuming litigation between local governments and solar energy developments, and clear the way for expansion. 

Specifically, the legislation allows developers to give payments in lieu of local property taxes. Most payments will be set at $7,000, compared to $4,000 that Whitmer has vetoed in the past. To lure projects into underserved areas, some developments will have their rates set at $2,000. 

State Rep. Cynthia Neeley (D-Flint), who sponsored HB 4318, said the law will ease the tax burden on solar energy projects while still ensuring they pay a “reasonable” share of their dues. The financial predictability is also set to help communities with long-term investment planning.

“These new laws roll out the welcome mat for more clean, renewable energy development,” said Laura Sherman, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, in a statement.

Renewable Energy Investments

Senate Bills 302 and 303 are designed to encourage more commercial building developers and owners to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Specifically, the legislation expands the different types of projects that can be covered under the state’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, a financing tool that helps to incentivize the use of clean energy. 

The PACE program connects developers with lenders who fund up to 100% of the cost of building upgrades designed to promote energy efficiency or climate resiliency—including projects that help shield against environmental hazards like floods or severe weather.

The financing lasts for up to 25 years with a fixed interest rate. State officials said the program has saved Michigan businesses more than $233 million in energy costs over the past decade.

“I’m so proud to see this legislation pass into law,” said state Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), in a statement. “By increasing energy efficiency, we can increase business investment, reduce demand on our energy grid, and lower our carbon emissions all at the same time.”

Environmental Protection

Senate Bill 14 repeals a law that Republicans passed in 2018 which had prevented Michigan from strengthening environmental and public health protections beyond federal standards. 

The “no stricter than federal law,” as it was dubbed, required state officials to build a case for why Michigan needed better protections than national standards—and critics contend that it only delayed the adoption of environmental protection practices while leaving residents vulnerable.

Sponsoring state Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) said the law will give Michigan the ability to quickly set its own unique standards to protect the environment and public health, allowing a more effective response to incidents like the Flint Water Crisis and Lake Erie algae blooms.

“We recognize that federal standards should be viewed as the floor, not the ceiling,” he said in a statement. “Every state has unique needs, and the Great Lakes State is certainly no exception. 

Combatting Climate Change 

Whitmer’s “MI Healthy Climate Plan” includes lowering energy costs for all Michiganders, growing the clean energy economy, and a statewide goal of 100% carbon neutrality by 2050.

The latest state budget builds on that work—including nearly $600 million in water infrastructure investments; $125 million to help schools buy electric buses that don’t cause pollution; $50 million to improve air quality and water quality in schools; $43 million to boost the the energy grid and curb power outages; and $30 million to incentivize more renewable energy projects. 

Reports released this week also show Michigan is now leading a nationwide clean energy jobs boom, with more than 15,800 new clean energy jobs created in the state over the past year.

READ MORE: Michigan Scores Billions of Dollars in Federal Clean Energy Investments

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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