FirstEnergy Scandal, Laura Sherman Podcast Appearance, 11th EV Convening and More

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:

FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant. Image credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

FirstEnergy Scandal Rocks The Utility World

The arrest of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and several associates for allegedly accepting bribes from FirstEnergy Corp. to pass legislation subsidizing nuclear power plants is one of the most shocking scandals in the electric utility industry in recent memory. One of the reasons FirstEnergy sought a bailout from HB 6 in the first place was that renewable energy had changed the game. As solar and wind facilities spread across Ohio and neighboring states, the efficiencies of renewable energy made electricity more abundant and affordable due to their low operating costs. The coal and nuclear plants that received subsidies have relatively high costs to operate and found it difficult to cover those costs in this new competitive environment created by renewables.

While utilities support political campaigns frequently, what sets this case apart is how blatant the alleged coordination between legislators and the FirstEnergy subsidiaries was to get a single specific piece of legislation – HB 6 – passed. A legal entity, disguised as a nonprofit, acted as the conduit for $60 million to flow from FirstEnergy-related companies directly to Householder, who in turn delivered votes in favor of HB 6. The entity also funded efforts to defeat a ballot campaign to revoke HB 6. There are many examples in the federal complaint of the parties involved acknowledging the impropriety of their actions, such as a lobbyist who allegedly helped transfer payments from FirstEnergy-related companies to Householder being caught on tape describing the 501(c)4 as a “secret” that connected straight to Householder’s bank account. Householder allegedly used some of this bribe money on improvements to his Florida vacation home.  

Laura Sherman on Speaking of Resilience Podcast

This week, Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman joined the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities on its Speaking of Resilience podcast for a wide-ranging conversation about Michigan EIBC’s mission, the advanced energy’s ability to bounce back from the pandemic, state legislative matters and the state of advanced mobility post-COVID.

Check out the full podcast here.

Upcoming EV Convening Tackles Public Fleet Electrification

Michigan EIBC’s series of EV Convenings continues on August 11 with the 11th entry. This  Zoom meeting that will bring together stakeholders to discuss the electrification of transportation at a very opportune time. The pandemic has slowed EV sales in the short term, but has also exposed the resiliency of EVs, as seen by GM’s decision to hold fast to its ambitious goals to roll out significantly more electric models.

Michigan state government also has a rare opportunity to use funds from the federal settlement over the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal to replace state fleet vehicles with electric versions. The Whitmer administration has elevated EV issues by creating the recently-launched Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, led by Chief Mobility Officer Trevor Pawl.

With that backdrop, the 11th EV Convening on August 11 will be on the topic of public fleet electrification, and will feature speakers including: 

  • Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer, State of Michigan, Office of Future Mobility and Electrification / MEDC
  • Mary Till, Director of Business Development, Sawatch Labs
  • Aaron Viles, Program Manager, Electrification Coalition
  • Christian Williss, Director, Transportation Fuels and Technology, Colorado Energy Office

Register here!

The 11th EV Convening is sponsored by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). 

Another Panel Announced for 8th Annual Energy Innovators Conference on Aug. 27

 We have announced another incredible panel for the 8th Annual Energy Innovators Virtual Conference on Thursday, August 27 from 1:30 to 5:00 pm EST. Peering Into the Crystal Ball:
What the 2020 Election Could Mean for Energy Policy

Register Today!  Additional speakers include: Discussion on Grid Modernization with Richard Kauffmanmoderated by MPSC Commissioner Daniel Scripps

Talk with Nat Bullard:
Advanced Energy and Power Sector Trends

Fireside Chat on Federal Energy Policy with Katherine Hamilton
moderated by Kwafo Adarkwa

 In addition to our great speakers, the last hour of the conference will be a fun Virtual Happy Hour, which will give attendees the opportunity to socialize and network.

The keynote speaker for the virtual conference is Patti Poppe, President and Chief Executive Officer of Jackson, Michigan based CMS Energy and its principal subsidiary, Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility and the nation’s fourth largest combination utility.

Tentative Timeline:

1:30 pm – Welcome

1:45 pm – 4:00 pm – Programming including keynote address by Patti Poppe, conversations with national experts, and panel discussion focused on energy and the election

4:00 – 5:00 pm – Virtual Happy Hour (sponsored by Geromino Energy and Ranger Power)
Note: Registered attendees will receive a $15 GrubHub electronic gift card (while supplies last) prior to the event that can be used for the Virtual Happy Hour starting at 4:00 pm.

Event Sponsors

Terawatt Level


Gigawatt Level

Megawatt Level



Kilowatt Level

Michigan Energy News

  • Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman is interviewed by Michigan Radio on the decline in coal consumption.
  • Last week the Michigan Public Service Commission approved several power purchase agreements between utilities and hydroelectric, solar and landfill gas facilities.
  • Electrification, including heat pumps and electric water heaters, is the future of the electricity sector, according to Cherryland Electric Cooperative General Manager Tony Anderson.
  • Marathon Petroleum must pay $200,000 to a Detroit school and $82,000 to the state due to air pollution from a Marathon refinery.
  • With the completion of a new array, Stutzman Poultry Farm in White Pigeon in southwest Michigan becomes the first broiler farm in the state to run on solar. The project was built with the help of a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America program.
  • Boyne City enters into a contract for new EV charging stations at downtown parking lots.

National Energy News

  • A group of large companies such as Pepsi and Unilever urge Congress to include incentives for electrification and energy efficiency and delays in the phaseout of tax credits for renewable energy in the upcoming federal stimulus package.
  • Renewable energy was responsible for over a quarter of U.S. electricity generation in the first five months of 2020, significantly more than coal or nuclear.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that U.S. coal production is at its lowest level since 1978.
  • GM, Toyota, Renault, BMW and other automotive companies are projecting strong EV sales going forward despite the economic downturn.
  • The recent FERC decision on the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) will have the most benefit for vertically-integrated utilities in states without competitive wholesale electricity markets, according to observers.

Online Resources

Due to the number of events that have been canceled or postponed due to the pandemic, we are sharing some online events, webinars and tutorials on advanced energy topics that may be of interest.

The National Regulatory Research Institute has a three-part webinar series on “The Impact of COVID-19 on Utility Rate Making.”

Due to COVID-19, PlugVolt is offering complimentary access to a webinar series that provides a guide to how to select primary and secondary cells for battery products.

The Small Business Association of Michigan has many online resources including Youtube webinars and daily video briefings about COVID-19 and how small businesses in Michigan can cope.

Norton Rose Fulbright regularly organizes webinars featuring experts and executives of major companies, such as this one on the challenges that COVID-19 and low commodity prices pose to the energy industry.

The Clean Energy Group has a huge archive of webinars and presentations related to net metering, energy efficiency, EVs, energy storage and much more.

The Energy Storage Association has a number of upcoming and recorded webinars covering many different facets of energy storage. 

Michigan Energy Events

Every Tuesday at noon from June 23 to August 25, Michigan EIBC member Michigan CAT is holding an Advanced Energy 101 training series of webinars for engineers, focusing on software tools, design resources and project development for distributed power generation systems. Participants can earn up to 10 professional development hours. Register for free by June 22.

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education’s workshop on simulating the payback of solar PV systems has sessions on July 28, July 30, Aug 4 and Aug 6Learn more here.

The NetZeroBuild Summit 2020, bringing together the key stakeholders involved in the Midwest’s value chain for net-zero construction in residential, commercial, academic and government buildings, is in Novi from August 25-26 (New dates due to delay related to the coronavirus.)

PlugVolt’s next Battery Seminar has been postponed from the previous dates of July 21-23, 2020, to July 13-15, 2021.   

National Energy Events

 The Great Plains Institute is holding a webinar series on the Midwestern clean fuels policy. Learn more here


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources released new RFPs for utility-scale solar systems at sites in northern Michigan, one in Dickinson County and the other in Crawford County. Find more information here.

The Kent County Department of Public Works is looking for an anchor tenant for its planned Sustainable Business Park. Learn about the RFP here.

The Green Task Force is requesting that non-profit and faith-based organizations fill out a brief survey to assess readiness for solar projects.

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.

Ann Arbor Public Schools have an RFP for an electric bus charging station.

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 to find out more information including how a building can apply.

The Michigan Energy Office’s Small Manufacturers Energy Waste Reduction Incentive Pilot is offering rebates of up to $15,000 per company for small manufacturers that can implement energy efficiency activities between Oct. 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020. There is a 100% minimum match requirement. Click here to learn more about eligibility and apply.