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Join our work today to help us build a thriving and just clean energy future. 

Michigan Wants (and Needs) 100 Percent Clean Energy. Here’s How We Make It Happen.

Federal funding and an ambitious clean energy package currently in the Michigan legislature could help the state avoid power outages and reduce record-high electricity costs.

Wide shot of a solar panel farm on a snowy day. A worker with a yellow hard hat and neon yellow vest stands amongst the panels, with their back towards the camera.
Community solar farm at Grand Valley State University, in West Michigan. (© 2016 Consumers Energy/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Last updated October 6, 2023

In February 2023, an ice storm—aggravated by climate change—wreaked havoc across Michigan, causing freezing temperatures, widespread power outages, toppled power lines, and hazardous conditions. While approximately 700,000 Michiganders went without power in the freezing cold, Michigan’s biggest energy providers—DTE Energy and Consumers Energy—failed to deliver, offering a meager $35 in compensation to their customers, who were already facing increasingly unaffordable energy bills. And increasingly extreme weather patterns aren’t solely to blame for these frequent power outages. DTE and Consumers—the state’s largest electricity utility companies—rank among the worst for blackout durations nationwide. Reports show that utility companies have neglected basic maintenance on grid infrastructure that would help keep the lights on when disruptions happen, while instead using ballooning profits to give payouts to executives and shareholders.

DTE Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. DTE reported $1.1 billion in earnings in 2022. (Photo: © 2015 Ken Lund/Wikimedia CC BY-SA 2.0)

The reality is Michigan has two power problems: 1) its unreliable electricity grid that continues to pollute and cost communities, and 2) the political power of corporations actively lobbying to block critical policies that will bring the state’s power infrastructure into the 21st century.

But there is also a clear path forward. Federal funding, alongside an ambitious, actionable climate and clean energy package—currently in the Michigan state legislature—could help correct decades of unreliable power in the state, all while boosting Michigan’s economy and clean energy goals.


Michigan’s history of power outages and high utility bills

Michigan has an abysmal track record when it comes to basic power reliability. With some of the most frequent and longest blackouts in the nation, it ranks 46th among all 50 states in utility performance. Despite such unreliable services, residents paradoxically pay some of the highest costs for electricity nationwide

However, by transitioning to clean energy sources like wind and solar, Michigan could expand its energy supply and therefore lower costs for consumers. In contrast to fossil fuels, renewables produce the cheapest electricity in the world with prices that don’t fluctuate wildly. And yet, Michigan currently generates less than 10 percent of its energy from clean sources —while its neighbors in Minnesota and Illinois are ambitiously moving toward 100 percent carbon-free sources.

Investing in clean energy will mean cleaner air, cleaner water, and healthier communities. For decades, Detroit—Michigan’s largest city—has had one of the highest rates of asthma, directly linked to the city’s polluting coal and gas-powered plants. Transitioning to clean energy is a win-win-win: a more reliable grid, lower costs for customers, and improved public health.

The solution is clear, and Michiganders agree: State policymakers must act now to prioritize investments in fixing and cleaning up its power sector to address these chronic problems.

Poll showing 33% of all likely voters strongly support Michigan's transition to 100% clean energy. 28% somewhat support it. 12% somewhat oppose it and 21% strongly oppose it. The remainder are unsure.

A majority of Michigan voters support their state’s leaders taking bold action to make energy affordable and hold utility companies accountable.

Federal funding and state ambition can drive Michigan toward a clean energy future

Fortunately, strong climate policy at the federal level and the climate and clean energy goals laid out in Governor Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan—if paired with critical legislation now introduced at the state level—gives Michigan a historic opportunity to upgrade its grid infrastructure, improve energy reliability and affordability, and make its grid more resilient to the effects of climate change.

In April 2023, the Michigan state Senate introduced the Clean Energy Future Plan—the first holistic package of bills aimed at upgrading Michigan’s grid, changing the ways utility companies are regulated to ensure reliability and accountability, and accelerating our transition to cleaner energy sources and improved energy efficiency. Among other efforts, the package would commit Michigan to achieving 100 percent clean electricity by 2040, enact a strong energy waste reduction target to maximize efficiency and reliability, and reform the mandate for the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to hold major utility companies accountable in providing reliable, affordable and clean energy. 

High angle shot of Governor Gretchen Whitmer meeting with President Biden. They are standing indoors and near a large window.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (left) meets with President Biden (center) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (© 2020 Joe Biden for President/Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Similarly ambitious climate and clean energy policies in other states are already saving residents on energy costs, showing the promise of improving grid reliability, and driving innovation and historic investment in clean industry and manufacturing jobs. 

Thanks to the Biden administration’s investment in climate and clean energy solutions, states can and must accelerate their clean energy commitments. Combined, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) enable states to build better power grids and transition their energy mixes to cleaner, reliable sources like wind and solar at significantly lower costs. 


Michigan can take advantage of key streams of funding to do this critical work: 

  1. Clean Energy Tax Credits: With renewed financial incentives to build and produce clean energy, Michigan's utility companies can build new solar, wind, and storage projects at a much lower cost. Robust investment by the public and private sector in clean energy will diversify the energy mix to make it more reliable, pollution reduction, improved energy efficiency and savings, workforce development, and allowing for disadvantaged communities to access or benefit from clean energy more easily than before.
  2. Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnership (GRIP) Program: This $5 billion pot from the IIJA provides the Michigan state government financial assistance to partner with Tribes, towns and cities, and the MPSC to collaborate with energy providers, like DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, to deploy projects that improve grid infrastructure and transmission of clean energy
  3. Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) Program: Michigan was just awarded $3 million from this program in the IRA to develop a Priority Climate Action Plan. This funding, and the upcoming competition for Implementation Grants to fund components of state plans, is a historic opportunity to write an implementation plan for Governor Whitmer’s power sector goals, which includes transitioning to 100 percent clean energy, improving power reliability, and increasing energy storage, which will improve ability to keep the power on when the grid most needs it. 
  4. Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund: The IRA’s largest discretionary grant program will unlock billions of dollars in financing for clean energy solutions via “green banks” and provide grants and financing to build rooftop, community and local solar projects in disadvantaged communities. If Michigan institutions receive these awards, it will help lower energy costs in places where people pay the biggest percent of their income on energy costs despite experiencing the most power outages. 


The time for action in Michigan is now

Michigan has an opportune moment to improve its power sector for the better. With unprecedented federal funding, a motivated state legislature, a Governor focused on strong clean energy and climate action, and the power of a strong environmental justice and climate coalition, the time is now to advance the Clean Energy Future Plan. 

Michigan can aggressively cut pollution from the most polluting sector of its economy, while improving public health and cleaning up communities by slashing air pollution. It can save its residents money on energy costs, especially for communities that need it the most. Even more, the state can improve its energy reliability to help keep the power on in the face of extreme weather events. 

It will take a movement of people motivated to push Michigan leaders to pass this legislation, take advantage of clean energy funding and grants, and invest in historically marginalized communities. This is a chance to undo decades of resistance and neglect when it comes to upgrading and improving the state’s power sector. 

Michigan's utility companies must move past their history of roadblocking and instead embrace the state's potential for growth and innovation. Analysis shows that achieving Michigan's climate and clean energy goals will create tens of thousands of jobs, significantly lower costs, and save lives. The state's next moves—focused on strong action to revamp its power sector—could help accelerate Michigan’s comeback story for years to come.