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You Can't Hurry Love - Moving Away From Coal, Can Michigan Add Renewables Fast Enough?

If it seems like the push for decarbonization has suddenly picked up the pace lately, Michigan provides proof. Home to the Big 3 automakers and for many the symbolic heart of U.S. manufacturing, its efforts to move away from fossil fuels have long been met with skepticism and resistance. But changing attitudes about climate change and renewable power — and full Democratic control of the state government for the first time in 40 years — have led to a swift about-face in the state’s energy policy. In today’s RBN blog, we examine Michigan’s plans to accelerate its transition away from coal-fired power and the long-term challenges that come with it. 

This is the fourth blog in our series on the ongoing state-level efforts to decarbonize U.S. energy networks. So far in this series, we have looked at four markets that could hardly be more different; Hawaii, California, Texas, and New York. While developments are playing out very differently from state to state, based on any number of factors, one thing has become clear over the past couple of years as climate-related initiatives have gained momentum: Economic and logistical realities that may have been initially overlooked are being brought to the fore. Americans expect the energy industry to deliver fuel and power where they need it, when they need it, and for a price that everyday people can afford — what’s referred to as the trilemma of availability, reliability and affordability.

Today, we turn our eyes to Michigan, which now requires the state’s electricity providers 80% of their energy portfolio from renewables, nuclear, and natural gas with CCS by 2035 and that ramps up to 100% by 2040 — among the most aggressive timelines of any state. Before we get into the details of the changes coming down the line, let’s take a quick look at where things stand today.

Michigan Power Generation by Fuel Source

Figure 1. Michigan Power Generation by Fuel Source. Source: EIA 

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