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State wins $1.9 million federal award to support local renewable energy planning and deployment

EGLE to launch the Michigan Renewable Energy Academy to provide community support

Michigan is set to launch the Michigan Renewable Energy Academy (REA) with new resources from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. The State will receive $1.9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Renewable Energy Siting through Technical Engagement and Planning (R-STEP) program to improve planning, siting, and permitting processes for large-scale renewable energy facilities.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) will lead the REA in partnership with the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute, Michigan State University Extension, 5 Lakes Energy, and the Michigan Association of Planning.

“This investment from the U.S. Department of Energy is another tool to help Michigan communities continue to build out renewable energy at the scope and scale necessary to meet the goals of the MI Healthy Climate Plan, the state’s climate action roadmap,” said EGLE Director Phil Roos. “EGLE’s Renewable Energy Academy will be a one-stop-shop where communities can receive technical assistance and support as they pursue more sustainable, clean energy resources.”

The academy will be a community-centered resource for expertise in renewable energy siting, providing technical aid at no out-of-pocket cost to Michigan communities. The program will prioritize local participation and capacity building, especially to underserved communities, and help local and tribal governments navigate the complexities and harness the benefits of hosting renewable energy facilities.

“Clean wind and solar energy and storage systems are keys to a climate-healthy future for our state and world,” said Liz Browne, director of EGLE’s Materials Management Division. “EGLE and its partners in the Michigan REA are ready to offer guidance and expertise to communities for renewable energy planning and siting.”

Nationally, seven states will share a total of $10 million through R-STEP to develop and expand statewide initiatives comparable to the REA. These collaboratives will bring together stakeholders from all perspectives in the energy planning process: state and regional agencies, universities, developers, technical experts, public service commissions, farmers, unions, tribes, community organizations, and others. Learn more online about the selected state-based collaboratives, including the full list of partners.

The DOE also announced it will open a second round of the program with up to $12 million available for states.

In Michigan, R-STEP dollars will fund a consolidation of all resources, services, and experts relevant to energy planning and zoning into the one-stop shop with the REA.

These R-STEP dollars complement existing EGLE efforts to support communities in playing a role in the clean energy transition and helping Michigan meet the goals of the MI Healthy Climate Plan, including the Catalyst Communities program and the recently announced Renewable Ready Communities Award funding opportunity.

Through a grant from EGLE, the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute – one of the state’s partners on the REA – already is promoting a menu of offerings and services for communities that includes an introduction to renewables planning and zoning for elected and appointed officials, a series of mini-workshops on zoning for principal- and accessory-use wind and solar, tours of renewable energy sites, individualized presentations and workshops for township and county officials with no out-of-pocket cost, no-charge reviews of zoning ordinances, and more.

To meet the goals of the MI Healthy Climate Plan and recently enacted laws that require 100% renewable energy by 2040, removing barriers to rapid renewable deployment is critical. Enabling large-scale renewable energy projects can unlock opportunities for community wealth-building, create good-paying jobs and support workforce development, increase grid resilience and energy independence, and support electricity bill savings, especially in rural or underserved communities.

R-STEP is funded by the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and Wind Energy Technologies Office. The DOE website also includes more information about large-scale renewable energy siting.

Learn more about renewable energy initiatives in Michigan on EGLE’s Renewable Energy webpage.

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