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Climate group concerned over proposed data center bills


Two bills recently passed in the Michigan Senate concerning data center tax incentives are now being reconsidered by the House of Representatives.

Data centers operate non-stop, year-round. In West Michigan, Switch, the former Steelcase pyramid in Gaines Township, serves markets like Chicago and New York.

Energystar.gov reports data centers - remotely storing, processing, and distributing large amounts of data – consume up to 50 times the electricity of standard office space. And it’s not just power demands. A typical data center can use 450,000 gallons of water per day to keep their servers cool.

Bills SB 237 and SB 238 were passed by the state Senate in early May providing tax exemptions on equipment and machinery.

But an advocacy group says those bills don’t address data center energy consumption and protecting ratepayers from utility cost increases.

According to Marta Johnson, Michigan Legislative Lead with climate action group Climate Cabinet, the legislation also doesn’t address specific climate safeguards.

She says current wording in the bills also allow data centers to delay their conversion to 100% renewable energy sources should they see a spike in energy demand.

“So now that we see that we’re wanting to attract these big energy users and big water users, what we just need to do is make sure that we’re properly anticipating the energy needs and ensuring that they are bringing renewable energy with them and having just proper oversight to protect ratepayers.”

Climate Cabinet hopes to see considerations for the two bills completed by next week.

Dave joined WGVU Public Media in November of 2023 after eighteen years as a Michigan Association of Broadcasters Emmy-nominated photojournalist and editor at Grand Rapids' WOOD TV8 and three years at WEYI TV25 in Flint, Michigan. As a General Assignment Reporter, Dave covers daily news and community events all over West Michigan.
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