Our Work: I3 Responds to Michigan Climate Plan Industrial Provisions

On April 18, 2022, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released Michigan’s Healthy Climate Plan for midcentury decarbonization. Since September 2020, The Michigan Council on Climate Solutions — an advisory body in the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) — has been working with stakeholders to develop strategies to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 52 percent by 2030 as an interim target on the way to 2050. To gather stakeholder input, the Council created five working groups focused on the major emissions sources, Buildings and Housing, Energy Intensive Industries, Energy Production, Natural and Working lands and Forest Products, and Transportation and Mobility. Combined, these workgroup recommendations informed the buildout of the plan.

In January of this year, the Council released an early iteration of the plan for public input. In response, I3 submitted comments commending key provisions to future proof Michigan’s local industry, calling for additional action in line with the Energy Intensive Industries Work Group recommendations, which provided the basis for the plan’s decarbonization strategies for industry.

States are in a prime position to lead on industrial decarbonization by developing policies and plans that put decarbonization into a local context. As the plan details, Michigan has deep historical ties to the industrial and manufacturing sectors and the network of jobs they create. Industries like cement, steel, and chemicals bring tremendous local value to Michigan but also contribute significantly to overall greenhouse gas emissions. As the 5th largest advanced manufacturing workforce in the country, Michigan’s carbon-neutral ambition has important precedence for states looking to reduce emissions from the industrial sector. Already, Michigan has cut industry emissions by more than 23 percent, with the potential to achieve as much as a 45 percent reduction by 2030 when compared to 2005 levels.

The Michigan Healthy Climate Plan highlights several key strategies to drive clean innovation in the industrial sector:

  • Create stronger procurement programs
  • Increase the state’s recycling rate and develop markets for recycled materials
  • Encourage clean innovation hubs with the meaningful involvement of communities
  • Advance energy efficiency and process improvements
  • Explore carbon capture in areas where alternative decarbonization methods are not feasible

Below, we take stock of the objectives for industry outlined in the final plan and how they align with the priorities laid out in I3’s Federal and State Policy Blueprint:

Efficient Facilities

Improving efficiency comes with many co-benefits. As noted in both I3’s Blueprint and Michigan’s plan, taking measures to address efficiency can lower energy and production costs. Michigan’s plan also calls attention to the potential for job creation for the workforce needed to implement efficiency measures. The plan goes on to emphasize the role that combined heat and power can play in improving the efficiency of facilities.

Cleaner Products

Public and private sector procurement standards are a powerful tool for industrial decarbonization that builds market confidence in the deployment of low carbon technologies and products.  In alignment with I3’s recommendations, Michigan’s plan identifies expanding low-carbon procurement opportunities as a priority, particularly lower-carbon cement. The plan highlights the growth of a circular economy by spurring market development for recycled or lower-carbon materials to reduce waste, and specifically plans to prioritize support for disadvantaged businesses.

Clean Innovation Hubs

Clean industrial hubs provide a nexus for several decarbonization solutions. By co-locating facilities, decarbonization solutions can be deployed more cost-effectively through shared infrastructure and more efficient use of materials and energy. This is particularly salient for hydrogen and carbon management infrastructure. It is important to note, as both the Michigan plan and the I3 blueprint do, that the siting of these hubs and their environmental justice concerns must be carefully considered with meaningful involvement from impacted communities.

In addition to the above recommendations specific to industry, Michigan’s plan includes other cross-cutting strategies that can help accelerate decarbonization in the industrial sector, including:

  • Adopting a technology-neutral, performance-based Clean Fuels Standard to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. Not only would this policy help Michigan meet its electrification goals, but it would pair well with cleaner innovation hubs, which may serve as sites of increased industrial activity when making those fuels.
  • Statewide energy planning to assist with the vast expansion of available zero-carbon electricity in the state will help Michigan advance its goal of 60 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Commitment to environmental justice and a just transition, including the use of environmental justice screening tools in decision-making processes, workforce development and training considerations, and in line with the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative.

The State of Michigan has a crucial role to play in advancing the suite of strategies and solutions necessary for the industrial and manufacturing sector to decarbonize. Since welcoming comments on the first iteration of the plan, Michigan has raised its level of ambition by outlining a more thorough approach to industrial decarbonization and including many of the recommendations highlighted in I3’s comments.

In the coming months, the Office of Climate and Energy within EGLE will begin implementing the plan with the Council on Climate Solutions and Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, providing advice, feedback, and guidance. EGLE will submit reports updating the public on the plan’s progress on an annual basis, and the Council is slated to meet again on June 21 to discuss next steps.

Stay Up to Date 

Subscribe to the Industrial Innovation Initiative’s monthly newsletter to stay up-to-date on what states are leading the way on industrial decarbonization. If you would like to be involved in I3’s state-level working group, please reach out to Grace Olson at golson@gpisd.net.