- Newsletter (345)
Welcome to the weekly newsletter of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (Michigan EIBC), the business voice for advanced energy in Michigan. Here’s what’s new this week:
FERC Examining Rules on Political Advocacy by Utilities
Should regulated utilities be able to charge their ratepayers for funds they spend on political lobbying, sometimes in support of policies that are arguably harmful to their ratepayers? That controversial question has come up in the debate over Michigan’s rooftop solar cap. Last year reporting by the Detroit News revealed how Michigan utilities have given millions of dollars to election campaigns for state lawmakers who have been considering legislation to eliminate the cap, despite the impact failing to get rid of the cap would have on ratepayers who want access to solar energy.
Now, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is investigating whether it is appropriate or not for costs for political activities of public utilities regulated by FERC to be passed onto ratepayers. In an inquiry launched last month, FERC asked for comments on the merits and drawbacks of its current rules that lay out uniform accounting practices for public utilities. Those rules lack a “bright line rule or specific guidelines” that classify what kind of “expenses for informing and influencing the public” should be presumed to be cost-recoverable or not. As a result, there are questions about the degree to which more transparency” is needed for stakeholders to evaluate whether donations for charitable, social, or community welfare purposes are treated appropriately for ratemaking purposes.”
As reported by Utility Dive, some stakeholder groups like the Center for Biological Diversity are demanding more transparency, arguing that dues utilities pay to political advocacy organizations like the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) should not be assumed to be eligible for cost recovery. EEI and the American Gas Association, among others, however, are opposing this proposal, saying it is unnecessary,
How Utilities Can Better Plan for Storage and Other Advanced Energy Resources
Integrated resource planning (IRP) has been an important process for Michigan EIBC and other stakeholders to make the case for utilities to move faster toward advanced energy. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), as part of the MIPowerGrid project, is updating the parameters and requirements for utilities when they file IRPs to ensure that future IRPs better reflect the diverse mix of renewable energy, energy waste reduction, demand response, and customer-owned resources that, in addition to traditional power plants, can fulfill our energy needs.
Michigan EIBC and Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), with the help of input from members, recently contributed to the development of those parameters and guidelines with comments on the initial proposals the MPSC Staff has developed. Among other suggestions, the comments build upon the ongoing modeling work that the Institute for Energy Innovation is doing on an energy storage roadmap for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
The current models used in IRPs systematically undervalue storage, resulting in less storage being selected in these plans, the comments argue. But Michigan EIBC and AEE pointed to different ways to better capture the value of storage, such as using more granular data in IRPs. The comments also ask the staff to develop better projections that take into account the cost declines of storage, solar and other resources.
The comments should soon be available at the MI Power Grid website.
Do Not Ignore Justice Concerns When Making Investments for the Future of Energy
When making the business case for advanced energy, the issue of energy justice cannot be ignored. That is why Michigan EIBC has pledged to help “build an energy industry that is inclusive and equitable, elevates diverse voices, provides a safe community where we can all learn from each other, and promotes energy justice,” as we announced in a statement in 2020.
Part of that work is ensuring that energy investments reach underserved communities that may otherwise miss economic opportunities. Last month the New York Times ran a detailed story about the challenges the federal government may face in living up to a commitment from President Biden that at least 40% of the benefits of federal climate spending reach underserved communities, such as low-income or rural communities or communities of color. One barrier is built into the basic process for distributing funds. Wealthier localities have more resources to use to write better grant applications, which gives them an advantage in the competitive grant process.
“The result is a process that has widened the gap between rich communities and their less affluent counterparts, experts say,” the story said.
On a smaller scale, Michigan will deal with these same challenges when determining how to equitably distribute the large amounts of EV infrastructure spending the state is receiving. The state will need to take specific and deliberate steps to make sure funds go to low-income areas where EV adoption is already more difficult.
Michigan Energy News
- Michigan environmental groups see the forthcoming update of the state’s building codes as an opportunity to drive clean energy forward.
- Michigan EIBC member Pine Gate Renewables says it has completed financing for the MacBeth Solar and Lyons Road Solar projects in Muskegon and Shiawassee counties, respectively.
- General Motors showcases new EVs including an all-electric Chevrolet Silverado.
- The ongoing debate over Consumers Energy’s IRP and the filing of an IRP by DTE this fall are two of the biggest energy events in Michigan in 2022, James Gignac of the Union of Concerned Scientists says in an interview.
- The American Rescue Plan is providing Michigan with twice the normal amount for its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Plan.
- Upper Peninsula utility Upper Michigan Energy Resources unveils its 20-year IRP.
National Energy News
- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announces another large offshore wind procurement and a legislative proposal to develop 2 million “electrified or electrification-ready homes” by 2030.
- GAF Energy, an affiliate of one of the largest roofing companies, is competing with Tesla on the installation of integrated solar roofs.
- Utilities are spending more to modernize their distribution grids, but regulators are carefully scrutinizing these requests, with only $904.4 million of $14.7 billion requested being approved in the third quarter of 2021.
- The costs of generating electricity have been falling over the past several years, but rising delivery costs have almost canceled out those savings.
- New Mexico lawmakers are considering a bill to support the growing hydrogen industry, but opponents are concerned it could also subsidize the oil and gas industry.
- Vermont hopes to weatherize 90,000 homes this decade, but is struggling with training enough workers to complete the task.
Attention Michigan EIBC members: if you have a job announcement you would like in the newsletter, please send a paragraph describing the position and a link to apply to Matt Bandyk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include in the email a specific end date for the job posting.
“We are looking for an experienced and talented Outreach Professional to lead the technical sales outreach effort to promote and increase participation in our energy efficiency utilities programs midstream (instant discount) and downstream residential and commercial. As an outreach professional for energy efficiency programs with Energy Sciences, you will join our team of degreed energy efficiency professionals helping utility customers take advantage of incentives to reduce energy use in residential and commercial buildings and industrial processes and plants.”
Foresight is hiring for these and other positions. Visit the Careers page here.
“Support NextEnergy’s Mobility practice through the execution of programs designed to accelerate smart, clean, accessible solutions for communities and cities under the leadership of the Director, Technology Development. You’ll work with technology companies, business stakeholders, public agencies, and NextEnergy partners to launch and manage demonstrations of technologies that help demonstrate and commercialize next-generation mobility technologies and business models.”
NOVI Energy is growing, and they need your help. This month, they announced a joint venture with Osaka Gas USA to develop over 1000 MW of solar power generation facilities, enough solar and storage to power more than 150,000 homes with clean, affordable energy while creating good-paying jobs. This is one of several exciting projects NOVI Energy is developing! Learn more about their company and available Project Engineer positions. See open positions here.
Ranger Power is seeking an Assistant Development Manager to join its development team in its Chicago office. As part of a small and dynamic development team, assistant development managers are expected to manage varying responsibilities as projects progress through the development process. As a developer at Ranger Power, you will drive all aspects of project development and strategy, including site prospecting and land acquisition, site analysis, landowner relations, permitting, interconnection, business development, and community engagement and outreach.
SunPower is seeking a Senior Associate, Market Development and Policy, to advocate on SunPower’s behalf on state policy with various public service commissions, state legislatures, and state agencies to drive residential, commercial and community solar and energy storage adoption in the Midwest U.S., particularly in Illinois and Michigan. The successful candidate must be a self-starter, comfortable working remotely, and have experience navigating various regulatory dockets, reviewing public comments, and summarizing state legislation. Frequent travel within the Midwest region may be required at times. Location is flexible, although presence in Illinois is preferred.
We at SWCA are the problem solvers. We are the scientists, the planners, the technical specialists, and the creative thinkers.
Since 1981, SWCA has helped public and private clients overcome environmental challenges and move their projects forward. Our 100% employee-owned firm offers comprehensive environmental planning, regulatory compliance, and natural and cultural resources management services. We work together to understand the full life cycle of any project, from inception to completion.
In the face of rapid environmental, economic, and societal changes, our purpose is simple: to preserve natural and cultural resources for tomorrow while enabling projects that benefit people today. We do that by offering a suite of environmental consulting services combined with local knowledge, regulatory expertise, and high-quality service. We build long-term, trusting relationships with our clients and guide their projects to successful completion.
With a nationwide presence, SWCA is able to rapidly pool resources and respond to our clients’ needs.
Michigan and National Energy Events
On Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) will host its second Annual Summit: To 5 Million and Beyond: Community Solar’s Pathway to Success. Register now for the annual summit.
Michigan EIBC member Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University is now accepting applications for its C3 Accelerator. Apply here by Jan. 10, 2022. C3 is a growth stage Accelerator with up to $1.6M in funding in the form of grants, investments, and services to support the product development and scaling of Cleantech, Climatech, and Circular Economy technologies.
The Federal Highway Administration is seeking comments on the implementation of its EV Charging Program. Find more information here. Comments are due Jan. 28, 2022.
The Community Collaboration on Climate Change (C4) is seeking a full-time contract position to provide coordination of C4 leadership, organizational representatives, Grand Rapids residents, and the program deliverables.
State of Michigan DNR is going big in solar with projects in the ground, others in development and additional ones being planned. DNR has released a Request for Proposal for Prequalification Program for Renewable Energy PPAs: www.michigan.gov/sigmavss. Use “Guess Access” to get the RFP. A previous round of pre-qualifications netted solar companies that then were able to bid on a portfolio of DNR solar projects in Southwest Michigan. Another portfolio in the Northern Region is in the works for later this year. Only companies who pre-qualify can bid on future DNR solar projects. Please direct all correspondence to the Solicitation Manager, Laura Gyorkos at gyorkosL@michigan.gov.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s PlanetM Testing Grant gives mobility companies the opportunity to access testing facilities around the state, including Mcity at the University of Michigan. Apply here.
The Detroit 2030 District is a free program that challenges Detroit building owners and managers to reduce wasted energy. Those that achieve the greatest reductions from the prior-year baseline will be recognized at the first annual Detroit Energy Challenge Award Ceremony in 2021. Visit 2030districts.org/Detroit to find out more information including how a building can apply.