MI Power Grid Ramps Up, Powerley Empowers Consumers 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:

MI Power Grid Modernization Plan Activities Start to Ramp Up

 This fall Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) announced a sweeping effort to determine how to modernize Michigan’s electric grid through the MI Power Grid initiative. The MI Power Grid process is beginning to ramp up and will continue to evolve in 2020.

Currently, the MPSC staff is working on a draft report of recommendations regarding distribution system planning and maintenance, which is expected to be released in late February 2020. Stakeholders will be able to comment on that report through March 5, and a final report will be completed by April 1. 

Michigan EIBC has been engaged in this process. President Laura Sherman moderated a panel on “Third-Party Uses of Hosting Capacity Analyses” at an Oct. 16 MPSC stakeholder meeting. Also, comments jointly prepared by Michigan EIBC and the Advanced Energy Economy Institute call for formal analyses of hosting capacity – the amount of distributed energy resources like rooftop solar that can be accommodated at different points of the distribution grid. “[Hosting capacity analyses, or HCAs] can become a tool for DER developers in identifying appropriate locations to site their projects. By directing their investments where interconnection costs are low, HCAs allow market participants to make informed decisions,” the comments said.

Distribution grid modernization is just one part of MI Power Grid. The first meeting between PSC staff and stakeholders regarding how to increase participation in and improve performance of demand response programs is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2020. We will keep Michigan EIBC members updated on other MI Power Grid efforts.

Michigan EIBC Member Visit: Powerley Gives Consumers Power Over Their Energy Usage

 Michigan EIBC’s VP of Policy, Cory Connolly, resumed his tour of Michigan EIBC member companies with a visit to Powerley, the first company to integrate real-time energy management within a complete smart home solution, at its headquarters in downtown Royal Oak, just outside Detroit. There, Cory got a firsthand demonstration of the Powerley smart home energy management platform. Born out of the utility, the Powerley platform focuses on the opportunities and obstacles that energy providers are facing – like strengthening customer relationships and empowering customers that need extra assistance with tools to reduce their bill. Today, utilities are using Powerley to educate consumers on their real-time energy usage and remotely manage and control their energy and smart home. Powerley’s analytic tools are an example of how sophisticated data analysis is making it possible for buildings, residential and commercial, to achieve better occupancy comfort and environmental benefits. Recently, this topic of “Big Data and Smart Buildings” was covered at the Institute for Energy Innovation’s Lunch and Learn event for Michigan legislators, legislative staff, and Michigan EIBC members in Lansing. Panelists Paul Wezner from Powerley, Kendal Kuneman from Energy Sciences, and Nathalie Osborn from NextEnergy talked about the use of detailed energy data to decrease electric bills, increase occupancy comfort, enable demand management, and integrate new technologies.

The Powerley platform has an array of options to empower customers to control their energy via mobile phone and voice assistance. Users can easily toggle lights on or off and automate their EV charging, thermostats, and other energy-intensive devices. Powerley’s tools can set appliances to run more efficiently without consumers actively managing them. The company takes a hardware-agnostic approach, designing its platform to be compatible with devices from many different manufacturers. According to Powerley, this level of control and customization over one’s energy use can be especially powerful when combined with the personalized insights and coaching offered by the company. It can be difficult for consumers to figure out on their own how to adapt their energy usage, but Powerley gives them individualized advice on how to best take advantage of time-of-use rates and demand response opportunities based on their energy patterns.

Connolly saw Powerley’s platform as a potential way for customers to figure out how to successfully utilize new technologies like EVs, battery storage and smart home devices. 

New Report Catalogues 316 Companies Working in Michigan’s Advanced Energy Sector

 The Midwest public interest advocate the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) maps out the entire Michigan clean energy industry in a new report out this week, “Michigan Clean Energy Business Supply Chain: Good for Manufacturing Jobs, Good for Economic Growth, and Good for Our Environment.”

The report identifies 316 companies “engaged in the clean energy industry supply chain” and categorizes them into 249 companies primarily engaged with solar energy, 137 engaged with wind energy, 103 contractors that install and/or maintain equipment used in these industries and 170 professional services firms that support the deployment of projects with legal, tax, insurance, finance and other services.

ELPC’s report also profiles Michigan EIBC members Hemlock Semiconductor, Michigan Solar Solutions, Harvest Solar, Peninsula Solar and Helios Solar.

“Michigan can and should be a leader in advancing the Midwest’s clean energy economy,” ELPC wrote. “State government is actively accelerating new and existing policies to promote renewable energy deployment.”

To ensure that Michigan’s sector of solar, wind and associated companies keep growing, the state of Michigan should pass legislation requiring better compensation for distributed solar projects, require utilities to fully and fairly consider renewable energy in long-term planning and “adopt standards to support renewable energy projects that suit community needs, including shared solar, low-income solar, and integration with other land uses like agriculture, pollinator plants, and water quality buffers,” the report recommended. 

Michigan Energy News

  • Distributed energy installations grew 57% in 2018, according to a new report from the MPSC.
  • Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe says wind energy “is quickly becoming the new baseload.”
  • Michigan makes progress in the number of fast charging stations for EVs.
  • Michigan EIBC member Advanced Battery Concepts announces its seventh licensee for its GreenSeal® Bipolar Lead Battery technologies.
  • Consumers Energy announces that Phase III of its 114-turbine Cross Winds project in Tuscola County is now operational.
  • Despite cost barriers, utility carbon and methane reductions targets may lead to more production of “renewable natural gas” sourced from landfills or agricultural waste.
  • The city of Grand Rapids receives a “gold” certification from the Michigan Green Communities Network for its sustainability efforts, including amending a zoning ordinances to make it easier for residents to install solar panels.

National Energy News

  • Wood Mackenzie reports that the third quarter of 2019 was the strongest ever third quarter for U.S. energy storage deployments.
  • House Democrats introduce legislation to create a federal standard of 100% clean energy by 2050.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is hearing robust debate from a variety of stakeholders over proposed changes to how the agency implements the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA).
  • California stops offering rebates to buyers of EVs or plug-in hybrid vehicles that cost more than $60,000.
  • General Motors and LG Chem enter into a joint venture in a planned $2.3 billion EV battery cell plant in Ohio.

Michigan Energy Events
Michigan EIBC member Michigan Energy Options is holding a winter solar webinar series. The first webinar, on Dec. 13, is on the topic of “Solar Plus Storage as Resiliency” and will feature Clean Energy Group VP and Project Director Seth Mullendore.  

National Energy Events

Infocast’s Wind Power Finance & Investment Summit is in San Diego from Feb. 4 to Feb. 6, 2020.


 Orion Township in Oakland County has issued an RFP for a design build project to provide a 15.5-kW solar power system by Dec. 31, 2019. Potential bidders can view this RFP here.

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.