Whitmer wants state-owned office buildings on 100% renewable energy by 2025

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan plans to transition all of its state-owned office buildings to 100% renewable energy by 2025, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday.

Currently, state-owned office buildings use about 15% renewable energy.

The state also is putting together an inter-agency team to explore the possibility of installing solar panel arrays on state-owned land and buildings, Whitmer said at CMS Energy's Delta Solar Project in Grand Ledge.

"The energy purchased by the state will expand renewable energy and create more clean energy jobs right here in Michigan," Whitmer said Thursday, touting the state's partnerships with Consumers Energy, DTE Energy and the Lansing Board of Water and Light. 

"Our clean energy target will protect public health and the environment and take steps to reduce the harmful impacts of climate change over the next decade," she said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced state-owned buildings would use 100% renewable energy by 2025 during a press conference Thursday, April 22, 2021 at the CMS Energy Delta Solar Project in Grand Ledge.

Earlier in her term, Whitmer promised to follow the Paris climate accords and committed the state to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050.

Whitmer's comments come a day after her name was absent from a letter to President Joe Biden signed by 12 other governors advocating that all vehicles sold in the U.S. are zero-emission by 2035.

Whitmer said people shouldn't "read too much into it."

"We're being aggressive here in Michigan," she said. "We're partnering with our big manufacturers to set aggressive goals as we think about 2050...We're all working toward that same goal."

The state recently installed small-scale solar panels at the Oden State Fish Hatchery Visitor's Center near Petoskey and has made requests for proposals for seven more southwest Michigan locations, said Scott Whitcomb, senior advisor for the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Public Lands.

Copper Country Power LLC has leased DNR properties in Dickinson and Crawford counties where the company may develop solar installations, Whitcomb said. 

"We are also examining the 4.6 million acres managed by DNR to see if other sites are suitable for utility scale solar development," Whitcomb said in an email. "DNR sites would only be considered if they were in a degraded condition, or other marginal lands such as from a past industrial use, or considered brownfields."

Critical wildlife habitats, high public use lands and productive forest lands would not be considered for solar development, he said.

By shifting to 100% renewable, the state sends a signal to energy companies that Michigan will invest in renewable energy and willing companies should shift their production to accommodate that demand, said Liesl Clark, director for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

While pursuing a 100% renewable energy goal in 2025, the state also is eyeing what changes will be made in terms of on-site work after thousands of state workers worked from home during the pandemic, Clark said.

"It's something that all the departments are thinking about and actively planning," Clark said, noting departments are discerning how to reassemble and what teleworking will look like in the future.

Led by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, agencies are exploring, "What do we really need from a footprint perspective and can we shrink?" she said.