Michigan Passes Legislation to Support Renewable Energy Development

Michigan House Bills 5120 and 5121 are now Public Acts, signed by Governor Whitmer on November 28, 2023. These new Acts purport to streamline the permitting process for renewable energy projects in Michigan. Before these Acts were signed into law, the authority for renewable energy project approval in Michigan resided exclusively with local governments. The new Acts now tap the Michigan Public Service Commission as the entity responsible for the certification process purporting to encourage new development of renewable energy projects in Michigan.

The new Commission based certification process preempts local zoning regulations for renewable energy projects by setting specific site standards such as: minimum setbacks; fencing and vegetative requirements; height restrictions; and noise thresholds. Developers of renewable energy projects can apply with the Commission for a certificate. The application for a certificate must then undergo a contested case proceeding. The Commission must make a decision on a certificate within one year of the application being filed and specify the requirements for granting a certificate.

But local governments are not completely pushed aside by the new Acts. For example, developers of renewable energy projects are required to hold public meetings for, and obtain site approval plans from, local governments. Importantly, if a local government has a renewable energy project ordinance compatible with the Commission’s certificate process, a developer must apply through the local government first. If the local government does not make a decision within 120 days, or denies the application, the developer can then apply for a certificate with the Commission.

Please contact Jay Sherson or Stuart Chipman-Bergsma if our renewable energy development team can be of service in helping your project advance towards funding and commercial operations.

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