Gov. Whitmer’s New Mobility Office, Michigan Biomass at the Capitol 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:

Whitmer Elevates Mobility and Electrification With New Executive Office and Council

On Tuesday, Gov. Whitmer signed executive orders creating the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification within the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, as well as directing the department to designate a chief mobility officer to lead the new office, and establishing a new Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification that will advise the governor, legislature and department on recommendations for changes in state policy.

“Michigan has long been the center of U.S. automotive engineering talent, supply chain, and research and development and a continued focus through this new office and council will help ensure we consider the new opportunities automated, connected and electric vehicles create,” said Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman said in a statement in reaction to the governor’s announcement. “In partnership with the Institute for Energy Innovation, we released a report identifying opportunities for the Whitmer Administration to move forward on vehicle electrification and we look forward to working with the new office and council in the future. We applaud the governor for planning for Michigan’s mobility future.”

Gov. Whitmer announced the new office at the MICHauto Summit in Detroit on Feb. 25. MICHauto Executive Director Glenn Stevens recently collaborated with Dr. Sherman on an article about efforts the Whitmer administration can take to move Michigan toward leadership on vehicle electrification, drawing upon a recent IEI report.  

Michigan Biomass Tells Its Story at House of Representatives Hearing in Lansing

At a Feb. 26 hearing, the Michigan House of Representatives’ standing committee on energy heard about the unique attributes of the state’s wood-fired biomass power plants, as told by the managers of several of the plants and Gary Melow, director of Michigan EIBC member Michigan Biomass.

The 168 MW of biomass capacity at six plants represented by Michigan Biomass provide renewable energy that is available in excess of 95% of the time. Trees are not cut down for biomass power – rather, the fuel comes from sawdust, wood chips, discarded pallets and railroad ties, byproducts of forest products manufacturing and many other types of waste wood products for which Michigan’s biomass plants provide a use. “We optimize the value of the state’s forest resources,” Melow said in testimony at the hearing. 

“If you were not doing this, we would have landfill buildup and a stream of revenue lost for our rural communities,” Rep. Donna Lasinski, D-Ann Arbor, said during the question-and-answer portion of the hearing.

Also speaking at the hearing were Thomas Vine, manager of the Viking Energy/McBain biomass plant in Missaukee County, Edward Going, manager of the Grayling Generating Station in Crawford County and Aaron Hess of Mid-Michigan Recycling. Both the Grayling and Viking/Energy/McBain plants are located in the northern region of the Lower Peninsula, which relates to another unique advantage of Michigan’s biomass facilities. There is “not a lot of transmission in northern Michigan,” Melow said at the hearing, and the biomass plants represent some of the biggest sources of voltage stabilization that help keep the grid in that part of the state reliable.

Events Show Michigan’s Promise in Automated and Electrified Transportation

On Feb. 24 Michigan EIBC led a networking lunch and tour of Phoenix Contact E-Mobility in Ann Arbor that was packed with members of the automotive and advanced energy industries, bringing together two industries that make Michigan a hub for the technological innovation in mobility.

Phoenix Contact E-Mobility develops devices for the quick-charging of EVs, smart vehicles and more. The event also included a presentation from Debby Bezzina, senior program manager for the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, who talked about the extensive experiments in Ann Arbor testing how vehicles can communicate with each other, operate autonomously and achieve improvements in safety and reductions in congestion.

These technologies are a natural fit for EVs. At the first EV convening of 2020 on March 9, Michigan EIBC will host Chris Nelder from the Rocky Mountain Institute and Dr. Mehrnaz Ghamami from Michigan State University’s College of Engineering to discuss how to improve EV charging infrastructure. Register here.  

RSVP for 8th Annual Energy Innovators Conference on April 22; Sponsorships Available

Please join Michigan EIBC on Wednesday, April 22 for the 8th Annual Energy Innovators Conference (formerly Annual Member Meeting) at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. The keynote speaker 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.

Register to attend today. Sponsorship opportunities can be found on the Michigan EIBC website.

The panel topics for this year’s conference are:

  • Earth Day 50: Achieving the Triple Bottom Line
    • Panelists: 
    • Dr. Brandy Brown, Michigan EGLE
    • Ben Dueweke, Walker-Miller Energy Services
    • Kerry Duggan, RIDGE-LANE Energy Partners
    • Anand Gangadharan, NOVI Energy
  • Beyond Poles and Wires: Distribution System Planning 2.0
  • Building the Advanced Energy Workforce
  • The Future of Energy in the Built Environment
  • Peering into the Crystal Ball: What the 2020 Election Could Mean for Energy Policy
  • From Goals to Reality: Achieving Advanced Energy Commitments

Event Sponsors

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Michigan Energy News

  • Consumers Energy announces a goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2024, with President and CEO Patti Poppe saying that the pledge takes the company’s emissions reduction commitments from its Clean Energy Plan “to the next level.”
  • Carbon capture and sequestration and tree planting may be key parts of Consumers Energy’s strategy to go net-zero.
  • Dan Gearino of InsideClimateNews says Consumers Energy’s plan “just raised the bar” for utilities.
  • The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) has launched a database of all renewable energy ordinances across the state in order to help developers with project siting.
  • A 24-MW solar farm that could power Ann Arbor’s municipal operations is moving closer to approval.
  • Michigan EIBC member Geronimo Energy has begun construction on a 20-MW solar project in Erie Township.
  • Energy waste reduction programs in Michigan saved nearly 1.5 million MWh of electricity in 2018.
  • Bridge magazine explores the life of an EV owner in Michigan through the experience of one Ann Arbor resident.

National Energy News

  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration announces that wind has surpassed hydropower as the top source of renewable electricity generation in the country for the first time.
  • A number of environmental and consumer protection groups are suing the U.S. Department of Energy over the agency’s decision to not implement more stringent efficiency standards for lightbulbs.
  • report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Grid Alternatives and Vote Solar explains ways Midwest utilities could improve access to solar energy for low-income customers.
  • The city of Charlotte, N.C., is financing the construction of a solar farm through a green tariff.
  • The federal government says Northern California utility PG&E owes it $4 billion for allegedly starting wildfires through poor power line maintenance.
  • California regulators find that the ideal portfolio to hit the state’s emissions reductions target would triple current levels of battery storage capacity and more than doubling solar by 2030.

Michigan Energy Events

On Feb. 24 Michigan EIBC is holding a Networking Meeting at Phoenix Contact’s Ann Arbor office for a tour and discussion of e-mobility and technology. Please get tickets here.

Register for the 10th EV Convening planned for March 9 at the Michigan Municipal League in downtown Lansing. The topic is DCFC Infrastructure.

The Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association’s 6th Annual Banquet & Awards Celebration will be on March 12 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. Tickets are available here.

Tickets are available for the Southeast Michigan PACE Summit in Ann Arbor on April 15, hosted by Michigan EIBC member Lean & Green Michigan. Learn about work in Southeast Michigan regarding PACE financing and the economic benefits of green buildings.

On July 21-23, 2020 PlugVolt will be hosting its next Battery Seminar in Plymouth, MI (USA), featuring an entire day of in-depth technical tutorials presented by renowned professors from several US universities on Day 1, followed by Days 2 and 3 with industry subject matter experts presenting on Automotive and Stationary Storage applications respectively. Attendees will also get an exclusive opportunity to tour A123 Systems’ new Novi, Michigan (USA) facility.

National Energy Events

The CLEANPOWER 2020 expo, organized by the American Wind Energy Association, will be in Denver from June 1 to 4, 2020. See registration options now.


 The United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service is seeking applications for its Rural Energy for America Program, which makes loan guarantees and grants available for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, energy audits and more. The deadlines to apply for renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grants are Oct. 31, 2019, and March 31, 2020, while applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round. Find out more here.

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.