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Panelists Explore the Future of Solar at Latest Institute for Energy Innovation Legislator Education Event
Despite the recent approval of a new distributed generation tariff in the DTE rate case making it harder for the residential and commercial solar industry to do business (see our earlier newsletter), it has never before been more affordable or more popular for consumers to install solar panels on their homes or businesses. The strong momentum driving distributed solar forward was discussed at the Institute for Energy Innovation’s Solar 101 Lunch and Learn event at the Michigan House Office Building in Lansing on May 22.
The panel included Lucas Olinyk, VP of Sales & Marketing for EIBC member and solar installer Harvest Energy Solutions, who said he is “not worried” about the DTE rate case decision hurting jobs in the state’s solar industry. The Clean Jobs America 2019 reportrecently found that there are 5,419 solar jobs in Michigan.
While the end to net metering (and establishment of the new distributed generation tariff) might be one step back, other trends are pushing solar several steps forward, Olinyk said. One of those is rapidly increasing public awareness of the value of solar. About 10 years ago, a typical prospective Harvest Energy Solutions customer would ask, “How do solar panels work?” Today, the typical prospective customer already knows about the technology and is seeking competitive quotes.
In addition, some new technological trends that will enhance solar’s value are still in their infancy. For example, many solar installers are just recently incorporating energy storage into their product offerings.
Ensuring that distributed solar customers receive a fair value for the energy they produce remains a top priority for EIBC and many of its members. The reimbursement rate for solar is “an ongoing long-term conversation,” panelist David Gard, senior consultant for EIBC member 5 Lakes Energy and Board President for EIBC member Michigan Energy Options, said.
On the federal level, there is talk in Washington of delaying the phase-out of the ITC, but even if the tax credit decreases in value as scheduled, the dramatic and ongoing decline in the cost of solar means that solar will continue to grow, according to another panelist, EDF Renewables VP of Strategic Developments Myles Burnsed. The credit’s phase-out may allow more private capital to flow into solar project financing, thus lowering financing costs, Burnsed said. EIBC member EDF Renewables developed the Delta Solar project, the largest third-party-financed solar project in Michigan, which sells power to the Lansing Board of Water & Light.
The Institute for Energy Innovation will hold another Energy 101 education event in Lansing on October 22, focusing on advanced mobility.
Hemlock Semiconductor, Michigan Solar Solutions, EIBC Present to Senate Energy and Technology Committee
Energy innovation is all about change: the change from a centralized grid based around large power plants to a more bidirectional and distributed grid.
On May 21, EIBC President Laura Sherman and two prominent EIBC members – Hemlock Semiconductor Business Development Manager Phil Rausch and Michigan Solar Solutions President Mark Hagerty – explained to state lawmakers at a Michigan Senate Energy and Technology Committee the details of this ongoing energy innovation transition.
Illustrating the growing interconnectedness of the grid, Rausch talked about how Hemlock, the largest electricity consumer in Michigan, has turned its polysilicon manufacturing facilities into a “virtual power plant.” Thanks to recently introduced time-of-use rates and lots of planning and cooperation with Consumers Energy, the company has shifted its manufacturing by 12% from times when electricity rates are highest to non-peak times. The energy savings are “the equivalent of taking 2,000 homeowners and not running their ACs,” Rausch said. Not only does that mean lower electricity costs across the grid, but the lower cost of production for polysilicon, used to make solar panels, benefits the solar industry as well.
Price declines are speeding up innovation in other ways. A few years ago, Michigan Solar Solutions did not have any projects that combined solar panels with energy storage, but now has one or two being built at any one time, Hagerty said.
But the rate of innovation is still slower than it could be due to state policies. The recent DTE rate case establishing a distributed generation tariff to replace net metering and other policies that fail to recognize the full value of distributed solar got special attention from the panel. “All of these little policies nicking away at return on investment will impede us from moving from a centralized to a distributed grid,” Hagerty said.
NextEra Energy Resources, LLC (together with its affiliated entities, “NextEra Energy Resources”), is a clean energy leader and is one of the largest wholesale generators of electric power in the U.S., with approximately 21,000 megawatts of net generating capacity, primarily in 36 states and Canada as of year-end 2018. NextEra Energy Resources, together with its affiliated entities, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun and a world leader in battery storage. The business operates clean, emissions-free nuclear power generation facilities in New Hampshire, Iowa and Wisconsin as part of the NextEra Energy nuclear fleet, which is one of the largest in the United States. NextEra Energy Resources, LLC is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE). For more information, visit www.NextEraEnergyResources.com.
Michigan Energy News
- Several experts say that Consumers Energy’s integrated resource plan is “bolder” than DTE Energy’s plan when it comes to carbon reduction due to more expansions of renewable energy, energy efficiency and demand response and less reliance on natural gas.
- Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe explains in an interview with Bridge magazine why her utility is investing heavily in solar energy and how her views on clean energy have evolved over time.
- The Lansing City Council rejects a proposal from the city’s mayor to purchase renewable energy credits to offset 100% of the energy use by city buildings.
- EIBC member POWERHOME Solar CEO Jayson Waller and others discuss the impact from recent regulatory changes to net metering.
- Ford is focusing on hybrids over electric vehicles, betting that rivals like GM and Volkswagen are underestimating how high costs will dampen public enthusiasm for EVs compared to hybrids.
- At the Michigan Clean Energy Conference in Traverse City, speakers are discussing why Northern Michigan needs more wind and solar projects.
- With the energy industry one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in Michigan, state and local programs meant to address a mismatch between job seekers and trade skills are paying extra attention to training energy workers.
- Houghton High School in the Upper Peninsula is well on its way toward raising $41,900 to pay for a rooftop solar array expected to save the school over $100,000 over 25 years.
National Energy News
- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators are examining the expiring wind production tax credit and solar investment tax credit with an eye toward possibly expanding the credits and providing more certainty to the renewable energy industry.
- New Jersey lawmakers are moving closer to adopting a state standard of 100% clean energy by 2050.
- Although switching from gas to electric heat is an important step in order to hit clean energy goals, the state of Minnesota has been slow to make this transition.
- A bill in Massachusetts would require new buildings in most cities and towns to be “net zero” – producing as much energy as they consume.
- According to the New York Public Service Commission, recent changes to the rates utilities can charge customers will more fairly value distributed energy resources.
- New Hampshire lawmakers are making the bold move to quintuple the maximum amount of distributed energy eligible for net metering.
- The new model of GE wind turbines with blades longer than football fields are being called the future of the wind industry.
- Southern California Edison has a new $356 million program to install charging stations for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles.
- Midwestern utility American Electric Power Co. is working with Honda on research on integrating used EV batteries with the grid.
- The city of Eau Claire, Wisc., wants to put more solar panels on buildings and invest in electric buses as part of its resolution to use 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Michigan Energy Events
Join Michigan EIBC for an educational networking event focused on energy storage for EIBC members and non-members over lunch on June 10 from 11am to 1pm, at Varnum in Grand Rapids. Amy Hoeksema, Consumers Energy Project Manager for Circuit West, and Bill Peters from MISO will speak at the event. If you’re interested in that event, please register here.
Save the date for the U.P. Energy Summit on Friday, June 14 at Northern Michigan University. Free to attend. Additional details will be made available on the U.P. Energy Summit website.
The National Coalition for Community Capital’s ComCap19 conference, held June 11 to June 13 in Detroit, will include a June 12 panel on how to create local green energy economies through crowdfunding, PACE financing and cooperatives. Speakers include Bali Kumar, CEO of Lean & Green Michigan, an EIBC member. More information here: https://comcap.us/agenda/.
The IEEE Transportation Electrification Conference & Expo (ITEC) www.itec-conf.com will be held in Novi, MI. 19-21 June 2019. (ITEC’19) is aimed at helping the industry in the transition from conventional vehicles to advanced electrified vehicles.
Michigan EIBC Members Only: Members can join us in person on Friday, June 21 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm for an In-Person Policy Committee Meeting in Lansing. We will have a special guest presenter at this meeting. Reka Holley, Departmental Analyst of the Michigan Public Service Commission, will give a presentation on the most recent DTE Rate Case and answer questions from attendees.
The 63rd annual Michigan Energy Providers Conference will be held July 24 to 26 at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The conference will include speakers such as FERC Commisioner Neil Chatterjee and CMS Energy and Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe.
National Energy Events DISCOUNT for Michigan EIBC members to Advanced Energy Now | East • June 13 • Richmond, VA: Join us at AEE’s new regional energy policy conference, Advanced Energy Now | East, to network with industry leaders and work on an action agenda for growing your business. Full agenda and speaker bios available – HERE. For registration code, EIBC members should reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Roadmap Conference, the largest annual conference on electric and smart mobility, will be held June 18 to 19 in Portland, Ore. A full agenda is available here, and a discounted registration link is here.
Attend the Clean Cities Renewable Procurement Summit in Denver, Colorado July 23-25. Register here.
Attend the Grid Evolution Summit hosted by SEPA on July 29 – August 1, 2019 | Washington, DC