Michigan’s Grand Plan for Blackouts and Massive Utility Bills

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Mich., September 16, 2021. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Governor Whitmer is at it again, this time with self-destructive energy policies that will hurt Michiganders when they need heat and electricity the most.

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Governor Whitmer is at it again, this time with self-destructive energy policies that will hurt Michiganders when they need heat and electricity the most.

Midland, Mich. — Michigan is the latest state to embrace the self-destructive idea that it can completely wean itself from traditional energy sources. On Tuesday, November 28, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed two laws that all but ensure that the state will replace its reliable sources of electricity production with unreliable ones such as wind and solar. The result, according to a new Mackinac Center analysis, will be skyrocketing utility bills and days-long blackouts in the depths of winter.

Under the first law, Michigan must meet a 100 percent “clean energy” mandate by 2040, easily one of the most aggressive targets in the nation. As a stepping stone, the state must come to produce 60 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2035, just twelve years from now. That’s a four-fold increase from its current use of those sources for 15 percent of its energy needs, which took decades and countless dollars and taxpayer subsidies to achieve.

What this would entail is a de facto takeover of a large swath of Michigan real estate. Optimistic estimates from state agencies admit that to meet the 60 percent target, wind and solar developments would require 1.2 to 1.5 million acres. That’s where the second law comes in.

Governor Whitmer has now removed the right of towns and counties to restrict large-scale industrial wind and solar developments. Over the past five years, 26 proposed wind and solar projects have been stopped by townships and counties, reflecting residents’ concerns over the effects that massive new infrastructure might have on health, wildlife, utility bills, grid reliability, and property values. Now, a state commission, instead, has been given authority to approve siting for turbines and panels. If small towns don’t like it, tough. The governor’s handpicked commissioners will have the final say, and there’s no appeal.

The new mandate technically allows some electricity generation from nuclear power and natural gas to be considered “clean,” but that’s unlikely to happen. One of the state’s three nuclear-power plants closed last year, and while it may come back online at some point, there are no plans to build new ones. Meanwhile, natural-gas plants will be required by 2040 to capture 90 percent of their carbon emissions, a goal that’s not yet technologically feasible. Michigan is ditching proven sources of electricity generation for climate dreams.

Michiganders are in for a nightmare. The Mackinac Center analyzed an early version of the mandate of the two new bills, which was slightly worse than the final version. In the rosiest scenario, effective and affordable carbon-capture technology would be somehow fully implemented and traditional power plants would continue to operate. Even then, however, Michiganders, who are already paying some of the highest electricity rates in the country, would pay $206 billion more than they currently pay over roughly the next 25 years. That would translate to an extra $1,500 in energy costs per household per year.

A more likely outcome is that traditional and nuclear power will be phased out, pushing Michigan toward a more or less wind-, solar-, and battery-based electric grid. That would come at a total cost of $386 billion by 2050, which would roughly translate to an extra $2,750 in annual energy costs per household. Even if we assume an outcome between these two scenarios — say, a total cost of $300 billion for residents — families will be hit hard. So will manufacturers, who need affordable and reliable electricity to make Michigan factories competitive.

But the biggest problem will surely be blackouts. Michigan may plan to rely on wind and solar for 60 percent of its electricity supply, but the sun doesn’t shine for long periods during the winter, nor does the wind always blow. Battery-storage technology is still being developed, making it unlikely if not impossible, for the time being, to store sufficient power during sunny days or gusty storms. Power will inevitably run out when Michiganders need it the most.

We’re already acquainted with this crisis. Regional, federal, and international regulators have recently warned about rolling blackouts during summer heat waves. Michigan now has the dubious honor of being one of the five most power-outage-prone states in America, with outage rates that are double the national average and by far the worst in the Midwest.

But that pales in comparison with what’s coming. As Michigan struggles to meet the new mandate, outages will be most frequent in the winter. Some outages could last as long as 61 hours in freezing January, which would be a guaranteed job-destroyer and might be life-threatening for sick, elderly, and otherwise-vulnerable residents.

Michigan’s rush down this dangerous road is in large part the result of the 2022 midterm elections, when Democrats took complete control of the state government for the first time in nearly 40 years. Elections have consequences, and so do foolish laws. Whitmer and her allies in the legislature may think they’re doing the right thing, but it won’t be long before Michigan residents rebel over their dwindling bank accounts and unlit, unheated homes.

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