Michigan’s Clean Energy Bill Is a Really Big Deal

Michigan is set to become the third state in the Midwest and twelfth in the country to require a shift to clean electricity.

Of all those states, Michigan is one of the most ambitious because of the extent of the change it is making.

Michigan’s target year for reaching 100 percent clean electricity is 2040, which is as soon or sooner than every state except for Rhode Island. (The bill that would do this is heading to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk for an expected signature, as Aydali Campa and I wrote this week.)

And, Michigan is starting from a place of having unusually dirty electricity, with nearly two-thirds of its current supply coming from fossil fuels.

To better understand this, I spoke with Jacob Corvidae of RMI, the clean energy research and advocacy group. He walked me through an analysis of the Michigan legislation in the Energy Policy Simulator, an open source forecasting tool put together by RMI and the think tank Energy Innovation.

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Through the first 11 months of 2023, the following is the electricity mix for Michigan. This is the reported generation from the Energy Information Administration.

Michigan in-state generation
Natural Gas 46%
Nuclear 23%
Coal 19%
Renewables 10%
Other ~2%

Renewables includes hydro, as well as accounting for the energy consumed by pumped-hydro storage. Renewables also includes estimated small-scale (rooftop) solar generation. Wind power makes up most of the renewables category for Michigan.

Fossil fuels make up 67% of the total. It will be difficult to replace all of the natural gas burners, since those are used for load-following and can be quickly dispatched for frequency control. Unless they plan to build a lot of new nuclear, I don’t see how they can get to 100% clean electricity in any time frame.

  • Pete
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The article indicated the plan included carbon capture. That’s dispatchable (which is what they need) and much cheaper than nuclear.

However, the new owners of the Palisades nuclear power plant are seeking to restart the plant. (Michigan Profile) The state currently has two operating nuclear power plants, Fermi and Donald C. Cook.(Michigan Profile) Wind energy accounts for a small, but increasing share of Michigan’s electricity generation and accounted for 8% of the state’s total generation in 2022. Biomass, hydroelectric power, gases created as byproducts of industrial processes, petroleum coke, and solar energy provided most of the rest of the state’s net generation. (Michigan Profile)(Michigan Profile) Most of Michigan’s power plants are located in the Lower Peninsula, where electricity demand is greatest.

In 2022, Michigan ranked 12th among the states in the amount of electricity generated. Because consumption was less than generation, Michigan sent its surplus electricity out of state via the regional grid. (Michigan Profile),96 The commercial sector is the state’s largest electricity consumer followed very closely by the residential sector, with each accounting for about 37% of the state’s total electricity sales. The industrial sector accounts for 28% of sales. In part because of Michigan’s large population—10th in the nation—residential electricity sales per person are less than in three-fourths of the states and less than the national average. (Michigan Profile),(Michigan Profile), (Michigan Profile) Only about 1 in 10 Michigan households rely on electricity as their primary source of energy for home heating. (Michigan Profile)

The truth is: No one knows just how much CCS will cost at the scale that is needed to dispose of all of that CO2.

I figure Michigan’s coal plants right now emit around 24 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The natural gas plants emit 23 million tonnes. (Twice as much electricity from the gas plants, but gas emits half as much CO2 per unit of energy.) Add in a small amount of CO2 from the plants burning petroleum coke, and the total is around 48 million tonnes.

Let’s say the coal plants could be eliminated. That is doable. But renewables aren’t going to replace the coal plants completely. In the rest of the US, coal electricity generation has gone down in the last several years, and renewable generation has gone up. But electricity from natural gas has gone up more than renewables!

Does Michigan have the proper geology where 20 to 30 million tonnes of CO2 can be injected every year with high confidence that the CO2 will stay sequestered?

The Kemper plant in Mississippi was supposed to be the first big US power plant that was going to gasify coal and then sequester the CO2 from combustion. Well, the coal gasification equipment never worked very well, and the plant now burns natural gas. The CCS plan was also abandoned.

The original plan for Kemper (also known as Ratcliffe) was the CO2 was going to be piped to oil and gas fields in the Gulf, where it would be used for enhanced oil recovery to produce even more fossil fuels. And it still couldn’t work.

There are still too many unknowns about large scale CCS to compare it to nuclear.

  • Pete
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Renwables generation is growing much faster than natural gas genertion.


I thinkk EIA is underestimating the growth rate of renewables, long and short term energy storage, batteries, energy conservation/efficiency and distributed energy.

Those are long range projections of what they think will happen. There is no guarantee those trends will play out exactly as they currently estimate.

Here is actual history.

US electricity generation, Terawatt-hours per year
Year     Coal    NatGas  Renewables
2013    1581.1   1124.8    253.5
2022     831.5   1687.1    646.0
         -----   ------    -----
Change  -749.6   +562.3   +392.5

Renewables excludes hydro, which has not significantly changed over those years. Electricity generation from natural gas has increased more than renewables. The growth in renewables has mostly been in wind and solar, but as I have often repeated, wind and solar need to be backed up with dispatchable and reliable power generators.

  • Pete
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No idea, but surely renewables can replace some of that 20-30 million tons, don’t you think? I believe the plan is to replace most or all of that with renewables and utilities can use CC for any shortfall.

IIRC, they also plan to restart the Palisades nuclear facility. I don’t know if that counts as “new” but they are clearly envisioning some additional nuclear in the future. I’m certain that if utilities thought new nuclear was cost effective they would be including it.

I live in the future of electricity generation. Your post looks at bygone history which is being turned on it head.

Growth rate of renewables is the biggest news in electric generation.

BDO’s top predictions for the global renewable market by 2023 include

  1. The future of solar is bright - Although slowed slightly by geopolitical tension and trade uncertainty, solar capacity will continue to grow over the next several years—surpassing a terawatt of global solar power generation by 2023.

  1. Storage takes centre stage - Storage will take its rightful place as a key grid asset by 2023, helping to increase the reliability and resilience of increasingly decentralised power systems. The adoption of diverse energy storage solutions, including longduration batteries for utility-scale renewable integration, will grow by at least 30 percent year-over-year leading up to 2023.

  1. No headwinds for wind power - Wind power will continue to grow, with increased storage capabilities developed specifically for on and offshore wind, helping to improve the economics and productivity of such projects. Half of the 2023 global investments in wind will go towards offshore technology and projects.

  1. The energy convergence continues - Natural resources companies, from mining to oil and gas, will continue to invest in clean or renewable energy technology, including carbon capture, utilisation and sequestration—both to diversify their portfolios and reduce their corporate carbon footprints. By 2023, 20 oil and gas majors will have joined the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, up from 13.

  1. Cleantech investments soar - Following a cycle of disappointing returns, private equity and venture capital will return to the cleantech space in full force. Whether called cleantech or climate-tech, the regulatory, economic and scientific impetus for these technologies will see $600 billion dollars in global private investment by 2023.

From the original post…

Rhode Island, huh?

Rhode Island has an interesting plan to get to 100% renewables. It is so simple, I don’t know why other states haven’t adopted the same approach. In order to get to 100% renewables, they are going to keep burning fossil fuels. But they are just going to call their electricity “100% renewable”, regardless of the facts.

It seems a little dishonest to me, but what do I know?

At the state of Rhode Island’s website, there is a link to a paper titled “The Road to 100% Renewable Electricity”. Below is the link to the pdf.

From page 8 of the paper…
Most fossil resources will still be in operation in 2030 when Rhode Island reaches its 100% renewable electricity goal, since the other New England states are not currently planning to increase their renewable requirements as quickly as Rhode Island. The available fossil resources will be needed to respond to maintain system reliability, responding to the intermittent operation of renewable energy resources and maintaining the balance between electricity generation and electricity demand at low cost, albeit with the associated GHG emissions

Later, from page 10…
Meeting Rhode Island’s entire electricity demand with incremental renewable energy will cause a corresponding reduction in the generation of fossil energy across the regional power system, but does not require shutting down existing non-renewable generators within the state.

In the long run, the New England system may need dispatchable, fuel-fired generators, like existing gas plants, as backup to ensure reliability for those times when renewable production is less than load.

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Bottom line: When politicians say their states or countries are going to produce “100% clean” or “100% renewable” electricity, just know there is a good chance they are lying to you.

  • Pete

Saw this pop up in my news feed this morning:

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This report is over 3 years old.

And it is still on the energy.ri.gov website. If the information is no longer valid, the report would be taken down.

  • Pete

Restarting Palisades would be nice, but I would rather see that $1.5 billion go to building a new Holtec SMR at the Palisades site. The old Palisades plant could be refurbished and restarted to run several more years. But a new SMR, or pair of SMRs, would be a longer term operation.

  • Pete
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The article indicated they have applied for $7.4 billion for the SMRs.

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I doubt that it is valid.

The Holtec SMR does not have NRC approval. The 2030 date for commisioning is just a plan and we all know that nuclear plants have many delays and cost over runs. So keep your fingers crossed that Holtec can break the curse of nuclear power plants.

Depends on how you look at it. The total increase of natural gas was the biggest over that period but the renewables had the biggest percentage increase.

Coal NatGas Renewables
2013 1581.1 1124.8 253.5
2022 831.5 1687.1 646
Change -749.6 562.3 392.5
% Change -47.41% 49.99% 154.83%

And if we look over the latest five year period, then renewables had both the biggest total increase and the biggest percentage increase:

Coal Natgas Renewables
2018 1,149,487 1,471,843 414,292
2022 831,512 1,687,067 646,028
Change -317,975 215,224 231,736
% Change -27.66% 14.62% 55.94%

Excellent point that I wanted to also make. In fact, if we look at data from 2022 to 2023 we would see the renewables have a bigger gain in electricty generated than natural gas.

We expect that new renewables capacity—mostly wind and solar—will reduce electricity generation from both coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants in 2023 and 2024. Renewable generation capacity additions in our STEO are less uncertain than other forecasts because we survey this information monthly. However, the electricity actually generated from both renewable and nonrenewable sources varies based on weather conditions and market dynamics. It’s this aspect of our STEO electricity generation forecast where most of the uncertainty lies.

Wind and solar accounted for 14% of U.S. electricity generation in 2022. In our February Short-Term Energy Outlook, we forecast that wind and solar will rise slightly, accounting for 16% of total generation in 2023 and 18% in 2024. Electricity generation from coal falls from 20% in 2022 and to 17% in both 2023 and 2024. Natural gas accounted for 39% of electric power sector electricity generation last year, and we forecast its share to be similar in 2023 then fall to 37% in 2024.

Electricity generation from renewable energy sources has been growing steadily in the United States over the past decade. Last year, electric power generation from all types of renewables accounted for nearly one-quarter of total generation by the U.S. electric power sector.