The energy reforms that moved through the Legislature Wednesday would cost the average ratepayer more than $100 a month over the next 27 years, under a modeling study conducted by a Minnesota-based free market think tank that’s set to be published by month’s end.
The modeling found that building the needed turbines, solar panels, storage batteries, and the related wires, poles, and infrastructure would cost Michigan ratepayers a combined $200 billion through 2050 and create 61 hours of blackouts a year due to the unreliable nature of renewable energy.
If the policy were to go 100% to wind, solar, and battery storage, the estimate moves to $380 billion through 2050, an average of $2,746 a year or $228 a month more for ratepayers, according to the Center of the American Experiment (CAE), which has done similar modeling in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, and other states.
“You can’t do net zero on the cheap,” said Jason Hayes, the Mackinac Center’s environmental advisor, who worked with CAE on the study. “It’s the capital expenditure, the utility profits, the taxes, the operation, the maintenance. It all adds up.”
Hayes said much of the cost comes from essentially building a new energy grid structure from scratch. Instead of heavy energy baseload coming from a few plants, the solar and wind farms spread out across the state in the hopes the sun is shining or the wind is blowing somewhere.
Utilities will need to compensate for that by overbuilding solar and wind farms, which means even more high-voltage lines spread across large swaths of land, he said.
Before the Palisades Nuclear power plant was shut down in 2021, it produced more electricity than what wind and solar generated statewide combined, according to Hayes.
Bringing in nuclear to add stability to the grid, as the package calls for, is critical for reliability, he said. Today’s battery storage can only handle a finite amount of power.
“When the battery dies, good luck,” Hayes said. “You sit in the dark. There’s no escaping it.”
The business community flashed around the presumed high price tag of switching from burning fossil fuels from a few select locations to a more spread-out energy generation structure.
“By severely limiting the resources our state can use to meet our energy needs over just a few years and giving state bureaucrats unprecedented power to shift costs onto energy customers, the legislation could have dire consequences for job providers and residents alike,” said Mike Alaimo, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s environmental and energy affairs director.