New Michigan EIBC Webinar Series, Update on Distribution Grid Planning

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 EIBC Members Work Hard to Adapt to COVID-19 Crisis

The last two or so weeks have been among the most challenging for the U.S. economy and for our society in some time. Despite the challenges, Michigan EIBC remains committed to supporting and growing the advanced energy industry in Michigan. We’re continuously impressed with the ingenuity, adaptation, and drive exhibited by the industry. Here are some examples of how Michigan EIBC members are working hard and thinking creatively to keep their organizations moving while ensuring the safety of their employees and customers.

  • Michigan EIBC members are taking on the challenge of how to keep moving product and maintaining customers relationships, while minimizing physical proximity. Michigan CAT decided to introduce curbside parts pickup that can be arranged online to limit exposure to customers and employees. Apex Energy has continued staffing its Remote Operations Control Center 24 hours a day, and in a tweet affirmed its commitment to keep the ROCC open 24/7/365. The ROCC is the hub from where Apex operators monitor and control the wind and solar facilities that Apex manages. Also, Michigan Solar Solutions has detailed steps available so the company can virtually inspect customer homes and buildings to determine solar system specifications and installation.
  • Communication has become even more important in this quickly-changing crisis. Varnum LLP set up a Coronavirus Task Force led by the senior members of the firm to help clients navigate the many legal and business issues brought on by the pandemic. In addition, McNaughton-McKay Electric Company has maintained a frequently updated real-time notification page that tells customers how to keep being serviced at the company’s various locations.
  • Michigan Saves and Lean & Green Michigan provide affordable financing for efficiency and renewable energy projects. Their operations, therefore, are highly dependent on relationships with clients and contractors. As a result of guidance from Gov. Whitmer, the CDC and others, both organizations have moved to fully remote work environments, but continue to close projects and provide crucial financing. 
  • ITC Holdings, as one of the biggest owners and operators of transmission lines, has a critical role to uphold in the midst of the crisis. “As part of our readiness efforts, we are working closely with industry leaders, local and state officials, and our customers across our footprint to coordinate pandemic planning and response and our continuity of operations,” ITC posted on its website.

Introducing A New EIBC Webinar Series: “Bring Your Own Lunch (& Learn)”

We are excited to share that Michigan EIBC has created a new webinar series called “Bring Your Own Lunch (& Learn).” This series – available only to Michigan EIBC members – will enable us to bring valuable energy-related content to our members over the next several months. The webinars will take place twice a month and feature a new topic each time.

Our first webinar is on Friday, April 3 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm, and our guest speaker is Commissioner Dan Scripps of the Michigan Public Service Commission. Commissioner Scripps is Chair of Michigan’s COVID-19 Critical Infrastructure Stakeholder Group and will discuss the state’s COVID-19 response and considerations for energy infrastructure.

Please note the webinar series is only open to members of Michigan EIBC. If you’d like more information on becoming a member, please email us at  

Update on Distribution Grid Modernization Work at the Michigan PSC

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is nearing the end of its process to update its approach to distribution grid planning ahead of the next deadline in June of 2021 for utilities to file their plans on how they will maintain and upgrade the grid. Michigan EIBC has been heavily involved in these efforts since the passage of Michigan’s revised energy laws in 2016. In many rounds of comments, we have advocated for changes that would enhance grid modernization, taking advantage of distributed energy, energy storage, demand response, energy efficiency, and data availability. For example, we’ve advocated that non-wires alternatives should be on equal footing with infrastructure spending when determining how to upgrade the grid and that hosting capacity data should be publicly available to help communities, developers, and customers assess potential projects (See this blog post from last year for more details).

The MPSC staff recently released a report summarizing input from various stakeholders, setting up the commissioners to begin determining what to require in the 2021 distribution grid plans. In comments filed on the staff’s report, Michigan EIBC and Advanced Energy Economy urged the commissioners to take strong actions that will require utilities to give distributed energy a seat at the table in grid planning.

These include:

-Make hosting capacity analysis a standard feature of utility distribution grid plans. Hosting capacity refers to the amount of power capacity each node of the grid can support. Making information about hosting capacity across the grid publicly available would give renewable project developers, communities, and customers more information about the grid in advance of making project decisions or investments. Instead of mere pilot programs that would lead to geographically-limited information, require utilities to move toward full implementation of hosting capacity in a phased manner.

-Require utilities to make distributed energy a core component of their grid upgrade plans. Doing so would include sophisticated analysis of how the growth of rooftop solar and other forms of distributed energy are affecting utility load profiles on a granular level across the grid. Ultimately, the utility should have enough information to determine where grid infrastructure projects are not needed because distributed energy has eased the strain on the grid.

-Increase transparency in the distribution system planning process, for example by providing distribution system information to customers, regulators, and third parties.

-Require utilities to utilize a customer-centric distribution planning process that uses dynamic load forecasting of distributed energy resources and competitive bidding to source grid solutions at the lowest cost.

The next round of distribution grid plans from Consumers Energy and DTE are due June 30, 2021.  

New Member

SkySpecs automates the operations and maintenance of wind energy assets through robotics, a predictive analytics and blade management software platform – Horizon- and industry expertise to enable better decision making and a higher degree of transparency into operational planning over the lifetime of a fleet. Using SkySpecs’ suite of solutions, unplanned downtime is minimized and total production potential increases, making renewable energy more accessible to the world. SkySpecs has offices in Ann Arbor, MI and Amsterdam, Netherlands, and currently operates in 19 countries on 5 continents.

Renewing Members

Advanced Battery Concepts
Advanced Battery Concepts is a battery technology development company focused on the advancement of large-format, energy storage solutions. They have developed a broad portfolio of patents and trade-secrets, termed GreenSeal® technology, which enables improved performance at lower production cost for traditional lead-acid batteries with extendibility into other advanced chemistries.

Inman Solar
Inman Solar is a Developer, EPC and Owner/Operator of commercial and small utility scale solar PV projects.

Pine Gate Renewables
Pine Gate Renewables is a U.S.-based developer, owner and operator of utility-scale solar farms. Pine Gate owns and operates 250 MW around the country and has a development pipeline of 800+ MW. Based in Charlotte, NC with an office in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Pine Gate Renewables’ mission of providing locally generated renewable solar power for communities nationwide is centered on utility-scale sites from 2 – 100+ MW. The company specializes in land origination, project development, project financing and asset management. Pine Gate Renewables is committed to the broad transformation of our nation’s energy model by making community-based solar an option for everyone.

Plug Smart
Plug Smart’s skilled team of engineers, project managers and field technicians are able to deliver true full-service energy projects like no one else. Starting with the industry’s most comprehensive energy and equipment audit, Plug Smart will bring unprecedented visibility into your facilities’ energy consumption that will lead to a number of unique savings opportunities. Our financial analysis will help you determine the right funding strategy to minimize capital outlay and ensure that budget constraints are maintained. Most often, we can design a program that eliminates any initial investment, with payments that are met exclusively through project savings. Plug Smart’s customer-focused approach is also vendor-neutral, allowing you to select trusted contractors to work on the project. Our pricing method builds trust by offering complete transparency before, during and after the project. Additionally, Plug Smart boasts an impeccable record of on-time, on-budget performance, having never defaulted on a savings guarantee. 

Michigan Energy News

  • Consumers Energy has posted information about its upcoming RFP for solar energy, including the slides from a recent stakeholder presentation.
  • The second phase of the Burcham community solar park in East Lansing involves planting gardens and flowers to help pollinators like bees and butterflies.
  • Erie Township in Monroe County grants Michigan EIBC member Geronimo Energy an easement for its Temperance Solar project.
  • Governor Whitmer’s Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force releases a draft report with 14 recommendations on how to improve access to propane in the UP.
  • Motiv Power Solutions, a California company, sees value in tapping into Detroit’s engineering base to help build components of EVs.
  • It is unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect legislative action on several bills in Lansing related to renewable energy.

National Energy News

  • Changes by many states to utility tariffs for rooftop solar will likely affect the growth rate of residential solar PV, according to an analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • The U.S. solar industry in many parts of the country is having to make the case that their workers should be considered “essential” as many non-essential workers are ordered to stay home.
  • Renewable energy groups continue to work toward including solar and wind tax credits into any stimulus legislation.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic could cause more demand for distributed storage.
  • SunPower is cutting executive salaries and withdrawing earnings guidance due to uncertainty created by the pandemic.
  • Massachusetts is close to implementing the first U.S. clean peak standard.

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.

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

The Southeast Michigan PACE Summit in Ann Arbor, hosted by Michigan EIBC member Lean & Green Michigan, has been postponed from its previous April 15 date.

The Mid-America Regulatory Conference, an association of regional organizations of utility and regulatory agencies from 14 states, is holding its annual meeting in Grand Rapids on June 21-24

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.

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.)  

National Energy Events

The Midwest Solar Expo, previously scheduled from May 19-21 in Minneapolis, has been postponed.

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


5 Lakes Energy is seeking to hire a full-time campaign coordinator for the Land and Liberty Coalition, a Midwest regional collaborative fighting at the local level for the successful siting of renewable energy projects. Click here for the full job description including responsibilities, qualifications, and application instructions. [These RFPs have been put on hold.] The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has two new RFPs related to renewable energy projects at the Oden Fish Hatchery. The RFPs are published on the state’s online bidding portal. Search for numbers 20*1376 and 20*1377.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also plans to publish a RFP for leasing state forest land to utility-scale solar arrays. Go to the online bidding portal and use commodity code 91018 – Energy Systems, Solar Installation Systems

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 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.