Newsletter: 2015 – The Year of the Battery?

This newsletter was originally published on September 30, 2015.

2015 Shaping Up as The Year of the Battery

For years, batteries have come in and out of the discussion on an advanced energy future. This year was definitely a reinsertion of this concept into our business and political discussion. Batteries are becoming increasingly less expensive, and providing a benefit to each level of the grid. This trend has major impacts on future utility models, and provides additional opportunities for distributed generation.

The year got off to a big start when Tesla Motors announced the PowerWall, a new battery model that would be compact enough to fit in a garage or a basement, to allow a house to better utilize its own solar power.  The current version sells for $3000 to $3500. Utility Dive reports that Tesla’s new Gigafactory should be able to cut this cost in half by the end of this decade.

Things picked up in Q2 2015, the best quarter for energy storage in since 2012, and GTM Research is predicting 220 MW deployed in 2015 and each segment more than doubling on an annual basis. They also forecast significant growth in the U.S. energy storage market over the next five years across all sectors, resulting in an 858 MW annual market in 2019 – 13 times the size of the 2014 market!

Beyond connecting intermittent resources with storage, batteries are increasingly offering new opportunities at the grid scale. In fact, a recent report from the Energy Storage Association indicates that most energy storage use will still be utility scale. This comes in the form of hydropower storage, utility scale battery stations, and community storage units. In fact, energy storage – like net metering – is helping provide the lowest cost peak-power energy options. Indeed, NextEra CEO Jim Robo told a conference this week that he expects to see energy storage begin to displace natural gas peaking plants on a cost basis soon after 2020. NextEra is currently working on a slate of energy storage projects in the PJM market.

What do all these mean for the future of generation and utilities? Some states are already making changes to utility law to facilitate more usage. Hawaii has now changed their utility rules to clarify energy efficiency, demand response, and energy storage as distributed energy resources, so they could be treated as generation resources for planning and cost recovery.

This rapid growth should be good news for Michigan – including Michigan EIBC members Energy Partners LLC, Energy Power Systems, and Sakti3. This week Energy Partners announced it had received a patent for its Solar24 product that integrates storage into solar arrays on a panel-by-panel basis. Energy Power Systems earlier this year announced it had leased a 150,000 manufacturing facility in Pontiac, and was poised to create 300 new jobs. It also was named one of the 50 Companies to Watch during the Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards event in the spring. And Sakti3 picked up a $15 million investment from Dyson on its way to participating in the inaugural White House Demo Day in August. And this week Sakti3 CEO (and Michigan EIBC Board Member) Ann Marie Sastry told an audience at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech E conference in Austin how Sakti3’s solid state batteries represent a next generation of battery technology.   

This success for Michigan battery firms builds on previous investments in the state, including a recent announcement that Michigan-based firms (and Michigan Technological University) would receive $24.8 million of the $55 million awarded nationally for electric vehicles and other cutting-edge transportation projects closely connected to advanced batteries. 10 Michigan companies were among the 24 companies nationally to receive funding!

Whether this same success in manufacturing can be replicated in terms of deployment of energy storage technologies in Michigan remains to be seen, however, and depends greatly on reforms to the MISO power market and changes to state law to make Michigan a national leader in making full use of the batteries we’re increasingly manufacturing here in the Great Lakes State.


Tesla VP James Chen, MAE Executive Director Valerie Brader to Highlight 3rd Annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala

Michigan EIBC today announced that James Chen, Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Tesla, will serve as the keynote speaker for the 3rd annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala. In addition, Valerie Brader, Executive Director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, will offer opening remarks.

The Gala will take place on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing. Registration begins at 4:30 pm. The event will kick off with a reception at 5:00 pm followed by dinner at 6:00 pm. 

James Chen joined Tesla in August of 2010 and currently serves as the company’s

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs. Based in Washington, D.C., Jim is responsible for all aspects of government affairs and regulation at the international, federal and state levels for Tesla. He also serves as Tesla’s Associate General Counsel where he is tasked with ensuring compliance with the legal requirements applicable to Tesla’s products and facilities. Jim also assists on business deals for the company, including furthering Tesla’s relationships with strategic partners in the established automobile industry.

Valerie Brader is the Executive Director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, a position she has held since the Agency’s creation earlier this year. Her service with the Snyder administration began in 2011, previously serving as Deputy Legal Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Snyder, including work on the City of Detroit bankruptcy case. Before her service in state government she was a member (partner) at Bodman PLC, practicing primarily environmental and corporate law (with a specialization in assisting new or expanding businesses, from incorporation to securing permits and tax credits).

The annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala is the opportunity for Michigan’s advanced energy industry to pay tribute to and recognize those businesses, policymakers, and others who are doing the most to build the industry in Michigan.

Awards will be presented in five categories:

  • Business of the Year
  • Emerging Company of the Year
  • Employer of the Year
  • Public Official of the Year
  • Energy Innovators Business Hall of Fame

There are several sponsorship opportunities available. All sponsorship levels include a table (8 tickets) and participation in the awards committee to determine recipients for the awards listed above. If you’re interested in sponsorship, please contact Nicole Forward.


LAST CHANCE: Sign on to Advanced Energy Business Letter to Make Your Voice Heard!

The Michigan legislature has been discussing major energy statute changes for the last few months and bills are now in front of both the House Energy Committee and the Senate Energy committee. Business groups have continually said that revisions to Michigan’s energy framework should:

  • Maintain affordability for ratepayers by maximizing low-cost energy efficiency and using fuel-less generation sources to hedge against volatility in fossil fuel prices;
  • Align ratepayer interests with those of Michigan’s utilities by eliminating barriers to utilities integrating advanced energy solutions into their business models; and
  • Spur innovation and drive down costs for ratepayers by ensuring meaningful market access for third party energy providers.

Michigan’s current laws have driven billions of dollars in new investment while generating hundreds of millions in savings to Michigan ratepayers. Yet much of what is being considered would move Michigan in the wrong direction.  

Make your voice heard! Sign on to this industry letter today and let lawmakers know we should be embracing advanced energy.


Michigan Energy News

The annual UP Energy Summit took place this week in Marquette. Organized by ATC Transmission Company and the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO), the day-long conference featured a legislative briefing from State Sen. Mike Nofs, chair of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, and State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, chair of the House Energy Policy Committee; an update from Michigan’s three Public Service Commissioners; and updates from Enbridge, Semco Energy, UPPCO, and ATC and MISO. Michigan EIBC also hosted a networking reception following the Summit.

Mlive reports that the Michigan Agency for Energy’s new solar array is expected to save taxpayers $800,000 over the next 20 years.

Troy-based Toggled, a developer and producer of next-generation solid-state lighting technology and Michigan EIBC member, announced it just added Hyperikon to its rapidly expanding Licensing Program. Hyperikon is a LED light manufacturer.

TM3 Systems, a developer and micro-grid and hybrid power systems is merging with Lex Products Corp., a power distribution company, to form LexTM3 LLC. Michigan EIBC Board Member Nate Lowery will continue as CEO of LexTM3.

Attendees at last night’s Michigan Energy Forum event in Ann Arbor heard from a panel of speakers on opportunities and challenges involving waste-to-energy in Michigan. The event was hosted by Michigan EIBC.

Crain’s Detroit Business has a guest opinion piece from Jim Dulzo and Dan Worth, energy policy specialists at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities in Traverse City. They argue that policy certainty is necessary for Michigan to become a larger producer and manufacturer of advanced energy.

Dr. Gary Wolfram of Hillsdale College released a report calling for legislative action in Michigan’s regulated electric system.

Crain’s has another guest opinion piece from Saulius Mikalonis criticizing the arguments behind the net metering changes in SB 438.

Midwest Energy News has a piece on the Michigan debate on the true value of solar.

The Lansing State Journal has a piece on the energy choice debate that is currently being held around SB 437.

Midwest Energy News has a Q&A with Vice Admiral Lee Gunn about the importance for Michigan to be energy independent.

State Representative Gary Glenn (R-Midland) has an opinion piece on energy choice in the Detroit News.

Mlive has a piece on Jim Wolter, the founder of Energy Partners, getting a patent on his new innovative distributed solar power system. The system offers a new way to store and distribute energy from batteries that are coupled with individual solar panels. Wolter is a current tenant of MAREC.

Four Michigan leaders were among Midwest Energy News’s inaugural 40 Under 40 class. The Michiganders included were Brandon Hofmeister, Executive Director of Policy, Research, and Public Affairs with Consumers Energy; Abhilash Kantamneni, a microgrids researcher and PhD candidate at Michigan Technological University; Aneila Kuzon, Manager of Smart City Initiatives at NextEnergy; and Kyle Mayaard-Schaap, Creation Care Coordinator with the Christian Reformed Church of North America.


National Energy News

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed H.R. 8, the bipartisan energy legislation to make major updates to infrastructure, grid security and energy efficiency. You can read about the full committee markup here.

Utility Dive has a story on what could happen if the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is not extended.

Morning Consult reports that the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved a bill that would lift the oil export ban, but the measure will likely be vetoed as it also contains an amendment involving the Iran Deal.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas lost 28,000 oil and gas jobs since December.

SolarCity, the leading U.S. solar installer, announced plans to begin manufacturing a solar panel that they are claiming is the world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel. The panels have an estimated efficiency of more than 22% – topping SunPower’s 21.5% efficient panels.


Michigan Energy Events
The Energy Alliance Group of Michigan is hosting an event called Keeping PACE with Energy Efficiency in Michigan, highlighting the opportunities surrounding property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing for business owners. The event will take place Tuesday, October 13 from 3-6pm in Traverse City.

Michigan EIBC will be hosting their next West Michigan Advanced Energy Business Networking Event on Thursday, October 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event is free for Michigan EIBC members and $25 for non-members. Register here.

The 2015 Michigan Advanced Lighting Conference, featuring the Michigan Solid State Lighting Association Annual Symposium, will take place on Wednesday, October 29 in Lansing.

The Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association is hosting is 2nd Annual Banquet on Wednesday, November 4. More information is available here.

The 3rd Annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala will be held Tuesday, November 10 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing. Individual tickets can be purchased here. Contact Nicole Forward for more information on table purchases and other sponsorship opportunities.


National Energy Events

The Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid will be hosting a National Summit on Smart Grid and Climate Change in Washington, DC, October 13-14. More details can be found here

The 2015 Energy Storage North America Expo will be held on Tuesday, October 13, in San Diego. Find more out here.

AWEA is hosting its 2015 Wind Energy Finance and Investment Seminar on October 15-16 in New York.

Platt’s 17th Annual Financing US Power Conference is taking place October 29-30, 2015 in New York.

The 8th Annual Renewable Energy Finance Forum-West (REFF-WEST) will take place in San Francisco on November 5-6.

Additional Resources 
Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) is home to PowerSuite, a suite of tools that allows companies a one-stop on-line portal to search, track, and collaborate on state legislation and regulatory proceedings from around the country.

PowerSuite includes both BillBoard, the AEE dashboard for managing state legislation, and DocketDash, the AEE dashboard for managing state public utility commission proceedings. Subscription required. is a national solar permitting database that provides information on permitting for solar in jurisdictions across the country. The database includes a variety of information, from average permit turnaround times, to information required to be included in the permit, to contact information for individual jurisdictions. You can browse the requirements for the Michigan cities included in the database here. 

The U.S. Department of Energy is offering A Guide to Federal Finance Facilities Available for Energy Efficiency Upgrades and Clean Energy Deployment. The downloadable guide provides information about the various federal financing programs available for energy efficiency and renewable energy — making it easier for state, local and tribal leaders, along with their partners in the private sector, to find capital for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

The Department of Energy has offers free public access to accepted peer-reviewed manuscripts or published scientific journal articles from projects funded by the DOE within 12 months of publication.