Michigan Energy Innovators Gala – Awards and Solar Bills Signed Into Law


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:


Michigan Energy Innovators Gala Shows State’s Progress Toward Advanced Energy

 The 7th annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala on Nov. 14 was a celebration of progress Michigan energy companies have made transitioning the state towards the advanced energy economy. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the gala’s keynote speaker, signed solar energy legislation supported by Michigan EIBC and its members into law during her address.

“We were thrilled to celebrate Michigan’s thriving advanced energy industry and honored that Governor Whitmer was able to join our companies, honorees, partners, and elected officials for the event is becoming increasingly more important as we face the effects of a rapidly changing climate,” Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman said. “We congratulate this year’s award recipients for the important work they are doing to create jobs and propel renewable energy and advanced energy forward in the Great Lakes state.”

“The people in this room are helping us make great strides in clean energy,” Gov. Whitmer said during her keynote address. “Because of the work that you do, the cost of clean energy has been slashed significantly… We have unique opportunities to harness our innovative workforce, to protect the environment and make Michigan a nationwide leader in clean energy.”

The gala award presentations honored some of the companies and individuals that are behind the progress in Michigan’s advanced energy sector.

Emerging Business of the Year: PACENERGIES

PACENERGIES specializes in financial procurement, while developing, engineering and completing energy savings projects for commercial, industrial and governmental spaces. PACENERGIES provides consultation and project management to meet clients’ energy-saving needs using the company’s proprietary process, energy engineers and a network of specialty energy contractors.

“We at PACENERGIES are honored to be recognized as Michigan EIBC’s Emerging Business of the Year for 2019. When we decided to expand into the Michigan market, we were confident that business owners would see the value of our full-cycle construction and energy management process,” said Mariah Peake, president of PACENERGIES. “However, we did not expect to see the impact of our model so quickly. Five reconstruction projects under management in less than four months exceeded all of our projections. Michigan truly is an untapped PACE market and, with great partners like Michigan EIBC, Lean & Green and others, we are confident our presence in the market will continue to grow in 2020 and beyond.”

Business of the Year: Walker-Miller Energy Services 

Walker-Miller Energy Services champions the growth of the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, aggressively recruiting and training a workforce that reflects diversity in all forms – including women, ethnic minorities and historically underserved Michiganders – to careers in energy efficiency and sustainability.

“Walker-Miller Energy Services has grown from a small business to an impressive, diverse team of more than 100 people championing energy efficiency and renewable energy as inclusive economic development,” said Carla Walker-Miller, CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services. “The thought leadership of Michigan EIBC has been helpful to our growth. We are proud and humbled to be recognized as the 2019 Business of the Year.”

Project of the Year: East Lansing Community Solar Park

The East Lansing Community Solar Park is Mid-Michigan’s first community solar park. The Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL), City of East Lansing, Pivot Energy and Community Energy Options, LLC partnered on the project. Participating BWL customers are supporting solar power by leasing panels for 25 years. The park has 1,000 345-watt solar panels and is located at Burcham Park. Over the life of the project, the East Lansing Community Solar Park will produce more than 10.9 million kilowatt-hours of clean, local, renewable energy. Michigan Energy Options (MEO), through an LLC partnership, is the first Michigan non-utility nonprofit to develop, finance, own and operate a major solar installation in the state and the completed project is one of only a handful of community solar projects that have been successfully developed in Michigan.

“We are delighted for our work to be recognized by our peers through the Michigan EIBC. The businesses and organizations in Michigan’s clean energy sector are some of the best in the country,” said John A. Kinch, executive director of Michigan Energy Options. “As a member of Michigan EIBC, Michigan Energy Options has had the good fortune of working with and learning from true leaders and innovators in this field. We are humbled by this award.”

Public Official of the Year: Liesl Eichler Clark

Liesl Eichler Clark is director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). Clark was appointed by Gov. Whitmer effective Jan. 1, 2019. She previously was a founder and partner at 5 Lakes Energy and the founder and president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (Michigan EIBC). Clark has been instrumental in building relationships between the clean energy business community and state and federal policymakers while collaborating with energy experts and regulators to spearhead innovative energy policy. Clark completed a master’s degree in public administration from Michigan State University while working full-time and holds a bachelor’s degree in political economy from MSU’s James Madison College.

“I am humbled by this recognition and grateful for the opportunities I have had in my career to collaborate with innovators like the members of Michigan EIBC,” Clark said.  “In creating the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Governor Whitmer crafted the perfect opportunity to partner with and support the entrepreneurs who will drive Michigan’s transition to a clean energy economy.  I look forward to consistently living up to this honor in the years ahead.”

Energy Innovators Hall of Fame Inductee: Britta K. Gross

Britta Gross is a managing director at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). She leads the Institute’s mobility practice area, which is focused on market-driven strategies, technologies and policies required to accelerate towards a carbon-free mobility future. Gross has an extensive background in the automotive and aerospace industries. For the past 15 years, she was the director of advanced vehicle commercialization policy at General Motors, responsible for identifying energy strategies, partnerships and policies required to enable the commercialization of GM’s electrified vehicle programs, including battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Gross has an electrical engineering degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and studied language arts at the University of Wurzburg in Germany. 

“I was thrilled and honored to receive the Hall of Fame award from Michigan EIBC,” said Britta Gross, managing director at Rocky Mountain Institute. “I’ve dedicated my work to developing market-driven strategies, technologies and policies to enable an electrified mobility future that is key to ensuring a more vibrant economy and a cleaner and more sustainable environment. During my time at General Motors, I worked closely with the thought leaders at Michigan EIBC and their members in support of these policies and it’s such an honor to be recognized with the Hall of Fame award.”

Energy Innovators Hall of Fame Inductee: Jim MacInnes

Jim MacInnes is the chairman of the board and CEO of Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa near Traverse City, Michigan. Under MacInnes’ leadership, Crystal Mountain became the first Michigan ski resort to purchase wind energy offsets to cover the energy use of a new high-speed chairlift in the late 1990s. When Crystal Mountain added a spa, it was designed to achieve certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Their newly constructed 25-room inn is heated and cooled using a closed-loop geothermal heat pump system and uses low-energy LED lighting. Crystal Mountain was also among the first places in Northern Michigan to install public charging stations for electric cars. MacInnes served on the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council and was appointed by Gov. Snyder to chair the Michigan Utility Consumer Participation Board in 2011. MacInnes also serves on the Leadership Council of Michigan Conservative Energy Forum. MacInnes holds BSEE and MBA degrees from the University of California, Irvine.

“The MEIBC is doing great work to help promote advanced energy in Michigan and it is an honor to receive their 2019 Hall of Fame award,” said MacInnes.   

Gov. Whitmer Signs Major Solar Energy Legislation Into Law At Michigan EIBC Gala

On a full sized solar panel on stage before Michigan EIBC members, legislators and others, Gov. Whitmer signed the recently passed bills that simplify taxation of residential and small commercial solar panels.

“Michigan EIBC was honored that Gov. Whitmer chose to sign this legislation into law at our
annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala,” Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman said in a statement. “We’ve been working with the bill sponsors on this common sense, bipartisan legislation for several years. These new laws will fix the confusing patchwork of taxation across the state when it comes to rooftop solar so more Michigan families and businesses can take advantage of the cost-saving potential of generating their own renewable energy.”

The new law, which passed the House and Senate with overwhelming support under the leadership of Representatives Kahle and Rabhi and Senator Tom Barrett, clarifies that solar panels are not part of a property for the purposes of property tax assessment until the property is sold. Installing, repairing, or replacing alternative energy systems up to 150 kW is considered normal maintenance as a result of the legislation.

“These new laws will fix the confusing patchwork of taxation across the state when it comes to rooftop solar so more Michigan families and businesses can take advantage of the cost-saving potential of generating their own renewable energy,” Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman said in a press release. The new laws would ensure that solar panels are treated in the same manner as a new energy-efficient furnace or hot water heater, only increasing the property value of a home when the home is sold. 


Michigan Energy News

  • Voters in Mendon Township south of Kalamazoo approve an ordinance to allow the construction of small and large solar systems.
  • Consumers Energy announces it will become net-zero on methane emissions from its natural gas delivery system over the next decade.
  • The time to invest in EVs is “right now” because growth is coming, according to Ford’s global EV chief.
  • It is unclear what the market for Michigan’s wood-fired biomass power plants will look like after current contracts run out.
  • Attorney General Dana Nessel is criticizing DTE’s recently proposed rate increases.
  • Among the startups that recently received U.S. Department of Energy grants for manufacturing innovation related to solar energy is Scion Plasma, an East Lansing-based company.
  • West Michigan has become a center for energy-related startups, with companies like Michigan EIBC member Volta Power Systems, Jolt Energy Storage Solutions and Global Battery Solutions.
  • The city of Cadillac, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and Consumers Energy have partnered to redevelop a manufacturing site with solar panels to power city buildings, businesses and residences.
  • Michigan EIBC member POWERHOME Solar completes a 404-panel rooftop system for truck and trailer manufacturer Benlee.

National Energy News

  • McDonald’s signs two purchase power agreements for renewable energy: one for 220 MW with Aviator Wind West, a portion of the Aviator wind project in Coke County, Tex., developed by Michigan EIBC member Apex Clean Energy, and the other with a 160-MW solar PV project in Texas.
  • Vehicle-to-grid technology is gaining interest from industry as another source of distributed energy.
  • Michigan EIBC member Ameresco has a new $76 million project with the U.S. Postal Service in Manhattan.
  • Michigan EIBC member Black & Veatch is hiring several new executives as part of an increased emphasis on transforming the utility business model and distributed energy.
  • Utility Eversource and the city of Cambridge, Mass., have launched an energy “concierge” service to help large buildings become more efficient.

Michigan Energy Events

State Sen. Jeff Irwin and state Rep. Yousef Rabhi are holding a town hall on the Powering Michigan Forward legislation in Ann Arbor on Nov. 18.

On Dec. 3, Michigan EIBC will hold its next Energy 101 session at the Michigan House Office Building. The topic is Big Data and Smart Buildings, and registration is available now. Note that this meeting is for Michigan EIBC members, state legislators and legislative staff only.

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

The U.S. Commercial Service has organized the Clean Energy and Zero Emission Vehicle Technologies Trade Mission to Mexico from Nov. 18 to 23. This one-week trip for U.S. companies involves one-on-one meetings, conferences, roundtables, a networking reception and OEM and tier 1 plant visits with the automotive and clean energy industry in Mexico. Contact U.S. Commercial Service Mexico Energy Industry Specialist Claudia Salgado at claudia.salgado@trade.gov. The U.S. Commercial Service is also offering free consultancies for Michigan EIBC members interested in these business sectors in Mexico.

EUCI’s The Electric Vehicle-Utility Industry Nexus: Charging Forward conference is in Denver, Colo., on Dec. 2 to 3 and counts as a continuing education course. Sign up here.Infocast’s Wind Power Finance & Investment Summit is in San Diego from Feb. 4 to Feb. 6, 2020.


St. Johns Public Schools is seeking bids from contractors to design, build, own and operate, maintain and potentially finance a solar installation on school district property. Bids close on Dec. 3.
 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.