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Climate Power’s “Made By Michigan” forum at Ann Arbor SPARK highlights Michigan’s clean energy boom

Photo courtesy of Martin Waymire

Last week, Climate Power hosted a “Made By Michigan” clean energy roundtable at Ann Arbor SPARK to highlight the nation-leading clean energy investments and jobs headed to Michigan since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law last year.

With key local, state and federal officials on hand to share their perspectives and Michigan’s recently signed Clean Energy Future package as the state policy backdrop, the conversation homed in on how the clean energy transition is playing out in Michigan. In the past year, companies have announced $20 billion in new clean energy investments, which are expected to create more than 16,000 jobs in the state.

“We’re here to uplift the clean energy progress the State of Michigan has made in the last year through the Inflation Reduction Act and most recently the Clean Energy and Jobs Act,” said event moderator Joel Hawrani Heeres, director of community resilience at Public Sector Consultants. “We wouldn’t be seeing this progress if we weren’t seeing the local, state and federal government working in concert to achieve the outcomes we want to see.”

“The IRA is the single largest investment in clean energy, environmental justice and climate action in America’s history,” said U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (MI-6). “In just one year we’re seeing the impacts of this landmark legislation in Michigan, in Ann Arbor and across the country, and are taking important and significant steps to transition our country to a clean energy economy, all while investing in our workers and lowering costs for families.”

“Local government has an incredibly important role to play,” said Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor. “We have the opportunity to leverage local funds with the passage of our Community Climate Action millage back in 2022, enabling our Office of Sustainability to have long-term funding to accomplish our A2ZERO goals—community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030 in a just and equitable manner.”

“I am so proud to have been able to vote for this transformational climate action, clean energy package with the goal of getting us to 100% renewables by 2040,” said State Representative Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor). “This is huge to be able to take the work we started here in Ann Arbor, at the county level and statewide, because we know it’s a partnership of every level of government. None of this is possible without the work that has been happening at the federal level.”

The event touched on the innovation and entrepreneurship driving Michigan’s clean energy transition, the importance of ensuring equity and inclusion, the future of electric vehicles and mobility, investment in public transit, and energy independence for Michigan residents.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • Ann Arbor SPARK Senior Vice President of Entrepreneurial Services Bill Mayer: “Michigan, and Ann Arbor specifically, is literally one of the best places to launch an innovation startup in the country if not the world…What the state is doing is taking the funding from the federal level, creating RFPs to create things like the Global Epicenter of Mobility grant that we received about a year ago, that’s turning southeast Michigan into a research and development powerhouse for vehicle electrification, autonomy, supply chain, all of those things. Not only is it supporting the companies directly, but as a region it’s allowing us to elevate our visibility and stature, and it broadcasts a message that innovation and entrepreneurship is important to the future and success of Michigan and clean energy and sustainability is absolutely part of that initiative.”
  • Congresswoman Dingell: “What we want to do is be part of the future. We want to be part of the transition, to keep people healthy, to reduce emissions, to have a future for our children and for the next generation. And this country has the know-how, we know how to stay at the forefront of innovation and technology. What we’ve done in Washington is to put incentives and tools there to help do it. We need to tell people what is really happening. Not to be afraid of the future but to embrace the future and keep this country at the forefront. With the partnership of everybody in this room we’re going to get it done.” Equity and Inclusion
  • Congresswoman Dingell: “In Michigan, we know that the historically underserved communities continually and repeatedly bear the disproportionate effects of the climate crisis so we’ve got to prioritize the climate and environmental justice efforts. I’m proud of the fact that we worked hard to include the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and it was based on the green bank model here in Michigan. It’s a historic program that helped us attack the climate crisis head on by mobilizing the public and private investment for projects that slash climate pollution in communities across the country, but most importantly historically in the underserved communities.”
  • State Rep. Morgan: “We know that the disproportionate impact of climate change and energy production have been in lower income and Black and brown neighborhoods in our state and nationally. One of the key pieces of this entire effort is as we shift to cleaner energy production and siting, that is going to make a significant impact on these neighborhoods that we want to help and support. And we’re looking at the health impacts in these neighborhoods to be making parallel investments and making sure that the folks who are most impacted are some of the folks we’re training to do this work.”

Electric Vehicles & Charging Infrastructure

  • Congresswoman Dingell: “We can’t talk about the IRA in Michigan without talking about the auto industry. We know that the transportation sector accounts for 30% of all carbon emissions in America and we know that we’ve got to transition…We put the world on wheels—Michigan did—and now we’ve got to drive the future of mobility. It’s an issue of keeping us competitive. EVs and other alternative fuel automobiles are the technology of the future. China is making them. If we don’t make them, we’re going to lose any leadership we have in innovation and technology in the mobility market and I’ll be damned if we’re going to do that.”
  • Ann Arbor Mayor Taylor: “We have rules now with respect to the obligatory installation of EV chargers with new site plans. We are using IRA funding and our own resources to roll out many more charging stations within our own parking system. We’re making sure that part of the transportation solution here in Ann Arbor is that people can get around through all modes, safely and efficiently, as a pedestrian, as a motorist and a cyclist.”

Public Transit

  • State Rep. Morgan: “Public transit is the other big thing we’ve got to invest in. I would love to allow young folks who don’t want to own a car today to choose other alternatives, to have public transit throughout southeast Michigan, throughout our entire state, and especially improved access to public transit here in Ann Arbor. I think that is one of the most critical infrastructure investments that we have not done in Michigan yet. I believe it is possible, we just have to make it happen. Even if you can allow a family to own one car instead of two, we can save families money, we can help the environment, we can allow ourselves to have less cars in our downtown areas, and really free up that congestion.”
  • Energy IndependenceState Rep. Morgan: “I’m excited about allowing people more energy independence with their homes. I think that can help address reliability and affordability. I, for one, have had multiple power outages and every time there is an outage my husband asks: When are we going to install solar? With the help of a lot of these programs and incentives I think we can get there. We have major effects of climate change around flooding and outages and severe weather that are going to take a long time to reverse course and in the meantime we’re going to be feeling those effects. Wherever we can allow residents and communities to have more independence from the grid, to have a backup, I think that’s going to be huge.”

Photos & Video

Event photos are available here and a recording of the event is here.