Newsletter: Busy Time in Lansing

This newsletter was originally published on February 28, 2018.

Active Michigan Public Service Commission

With numerous pending state regulatory issues, Michigan EIBC wanted to highlight some of the most significant impacts on the advanced energy industry in Michigan.

  • Distributed Generation Tariff (U-18383): On February 21, MPSC Staff filed a Report on the MPSC Staff Study to Develop a Cost of Service-Based Distributed Generation Program Tariff in the distributed generation (DG) docket (Case Number U-18383), recommending an “inflow/outflow” mechanism for determining tariffs. With this model, “inflow” references the kWh the utility delivers to the customer, and “outflow” references the kWh the customer generates through a distributed generation project that is exported to the grid. Under this proposed tariff, DG customers pay for all “inflow” electricity according to their regular cost-of-service rate schedule, and they receive credits for “outflow.” On February 22, the MPSC issued another order regarding the DG Program, requesting comments on key issues concerning tariff development, approval and implementation. Comments are due on March 12 (U-18383) and reply comments are due March 26. 
  • Consumers PURPA Case (U-18090): In the pending case regarding Consumers Energy’s PURPA proceeding, the Commission made a number of determinations: 1) IPPC’s concerns are not sufficiently detailed to merit rehearing; 2) the Consumers PURPA proceeding should be reopened to address the terms of early termination in the Standard Offer tariff; 3) a utility unilaterally reducing payment for avoided capacity does not comport with PURPA; 4) there is a need for capacity over the 10 year horizon, but that payment of the full avoided capacity cost should be limited to the first 150 MWs of new QF capacity in the queue; 5) all of the motions to stay should be denied.
  • PURPA Capacity Determinations (U-20095): The Commission opened a docket to determine how utility capacity requirements should be determined (e.g., for PURPA decisions). The Commission posed a series of questions for comment and comments are due March 19, 2018.


House Energy Committee Holds Hearing on Conflict of Interest

On Tuesday February 27, the House Energy Committee held a second hearing on Rep. Gary Glenn’s conflict of interest legislation (HB 4968). A video recording of the hearing is available here.

Rep. Glenn announced that he has a substitute bill ready, which amends the punishment for conflict of interest violations to malfeasance in office (a misdemeanor) rather than a felony. This substitute was not introduced in the hearing and no votes were taken in the hearing. Rep. Glenn indicated that he expects to have another hearing at the end of March and plans to give those opposed the opportunity to testify. At least four cards were received in opposition to the bill including from the Michigan Association of Planning, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Township Association, and Michigan Christian Coalition.

Kevon Martis, of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, provided supportive testimony for the bill and brought in several local elected officials/citizens who also testified in support. Reps. Barrett, Elder, Lasinski, Hauck, LaFave and Green asked questions of those testifying. The primary lines of questioning were around the definition of conflict of interest including how to determine the boundaries of financial benefit (e.g., family members), whether this would simply freeze all action at planning commissions, why these standards should not similarly apply to members of the legislature, and why elected bodies do not provide enough of a check-and-balance on these issues.

Of note to Michigan EIBC members, Rep. Bellino announced that the Committee will hold a hearing on electric vehicles on March 13 and Liesl Clark, President of Michigan EIBC, will testify at that hearing.


State Tax Commission Changes Treatment of Residential Solar Panels

On February 13, the Michigan State Tax Commission rescinded its previous guidance regarding the tax treatment of residential solar panels, clarifying that these panels will now be assessed as a component of real property. This decision was publicized by the Michigan Agency for Energy on Monday. The State Tax Commission and Michigan Agency for Energy had previously maintained that residential solar panels should be assessed as personal property.

The decision was made in a case brought by Ann Arbor resident, Mark Cleavy against the City of Ann Arbor. This decision creates further confusion surrounding the tax treatment of residential solar panels.  As described by Ann Arbor City Administrator Howard Lazarus, “I think this calls for clarification and resolution and reconciliation at the state level, because otherwise you’re putting our licensed assessor in an awkward position, and we are in a position where we would be knowingly violating state statute if we did not consider it to be a real property improvement.” 

Michigan EIBC and several member companies have been working with the state legislature to craft a statewide legislative solution to this issue. Representative Barrett introduced HB5143, which would clarify that residential solar panels are not real property and are tax exempt. Michigan EIBC members are working with Rep. Barrett to craft the best path forward on a bill that can pass the legislature and create statewide clarity on this issue.


Michigan Energy Stories

  • Representative Glenn introduced legislation calling for the inclusion of the agriculture industry in electric choice considerations.
  • Senator Dale Zorn introduced a bill to reduce home heating costs for low-income residents.
  • Five takeaways from Michigan’s renewable portfolio standard report.
  • The Michigan Public Service Commission highlighted huge energy savings in its 2016 Utility Energy Waste Reduction report.
  • Consumers Energy announced plans to lower customer bills.
  • Consumers Energy announced a second “energy district” that will include solar panels, electric vehicle charging, high-performance building and battery storage.
  • DTE Energy’s CEO explains why the utility believes a new natural gas plant is necessary for the utility to replace coal-fired generation, and why DTE opposes the ballot initiative for a 30% statewide RPS. Consumers Energy also opposes the ballot initiative, but energy analysts say the approach has worked in other states.


National Energy Stories

  • Congressman Tim Walberg of Michigan introduced “The PURPA Modernization Act of 2017,” a bill that some say would gut PURPA. Under the current law, regulated utilities are required to purchase power from small renewable power producers of less than 20 megawatts. What a utility pays to a small producer is called the avoided cost, or the amount the utility would have paid if it had bought or produced the power.
  • The Trump administration faces pushback over a budget request to eliminate $42 million in federal funding for the EPA’s Energy Star program, which sets efficiency benchmarks for products.
  • More than 230 mayors send a joint letter asking EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt not to repeal the Clean Power Plan.
  • Plaintiffs have filed numerous lawsuits against the EPA since President Trump’s inauguration. The president is also seeing legal challenges against his administration’s recent solar tariff decision.
  • Voters “can push to make sure that states and cities more than make up for President Trump’s unfortunate decision” to enact solar import tariffs, says an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
  • The bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance sent a letter urging Congress to block proposed DOE budget cuts that would slash funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency research. 
  • A report urges states to consider reforms that would give utilities more financial incentive to embrace cloud computing and other technology over traditional capital investments.
  • Energy analysts say the boost in the coal industry is temporary and has nothing to do with White House policies.

National Energy Leaders


Michigan Energy Events 

Michigan EIBC will host a Michigan Energy Forum: Solar Networking Lunch at member company Varnum’s Grand Rapids office on March 5. Register here.

You’re invited to MEECA’s 4th Annual Gala & Awards Celebration on March 6 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Learn more and register here.

Michigan EIBC’s 6th Annual Member Meeting is scheduled for April 30 in Lansing, followed by a Lobby Day on May 1. Mark your calendars, and register here to reserve your spot at the Annual Member Meeting today.

Michigan EIBC will host a Michigan Energy Forum on energy efficiency and lighting on June 11 at member company CLEAResult’s office in Detroit. Stay tuned for details!

On July 17-19, PlugVolt will be hosting its next Battery Seminar in Plymouth, Michigan (USA), featuring an entire day of in-depth training by EnerDelon Lithium Ion technology, alongside complementary industry updates by automotive and grid storage OEMs, global battery manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers. Attendees also get a tour of Intertek’s Battery Testing Center. Register here.


National Energy Events   

EUCI invites you to its Renewable Energy 101 Forum, March 12-13, in Portland, Oregon. Learn more and register here.

On March 13-15, energy innovators from across industry, government, and academia will gather at the Gaylord National Convention Center right outside Washington, DC for a three-day program showcasing transformational energy technologies. The 2018 Summit agenda has been posted online! ARPA-E has assembled 20+ panel discussions (including topics on defense, bioenergy, and grid technologies), networking receptions, and technology demonstrations. (Please note the agenda is subject to change). Register TODAY

EUCI is hosting two courses on smart metering: Smart Metering 101 and Advanced Smart Meeting courses on March 19 and March 20, respectively.

EUCI invites you to its event, “Capital Planning for Grid Modernization: Building the Grid of Tomorrow,” April 3, in Denver, Colorado. Register here.

ACI invites you to “Microgrids East 2018,” on April 11-12 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Register here.

EUCI invites you to the Utility-Scale Solar Power Plant Fundamentals conference on April 18 – 19 in Portland, Oregon. Register here.

AWEA invites you to the Powering Forward conference May 7-10 in Chicago, Illinois. The conference, entitled WINDPOWER, will create an opportunity for the industry comes together to plan for the future and keep this success story growing. Register here.

EUCI invites you to “Blockchain Technology for the Energy Sector” May 8-9 in Houston, Texas. Register here.

Join ACI in San Francisco on June 6-7 for Grid-Scale Storage 2018 and learn through different panel discussions, site tours, workshops, and presentations on the significant market opportunities for energy storage. This three-day conference will cover all aspects of the implementation of energy storage technologies as a key enabler of grid modernization, addressing the electric grid’s most pressing needs by improving its stability and resiliency. Investment in energy storage is essential for keeping pace with the soaring demand for electricity. Register here.

You’re invited to present, advertise, exhibit, or sponsor at The Energy Fair, June 15-17 in Custer, Wisconsin. Learn more and register here.

You’re invited to the EV Roadmap 11, June 19-20 in Portland, Oregon. The Roadmap Conference is the nation’s largest and most advanced annual conference on electric and smart mobility. Held each summer in the Pacific Northwest, Roadmap includes nearly 100 national and international speakers, dozens of exhibits, regional smart mobility tours, and high-energy interactive sessions. Expect to make connections with a diverse mix of key leaders in the industry, government, and utilities. Register here.

You’re invited to the Grid Evolution Summit hosted by Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), in Washington, D.C., July 9-12. At the Grid Evolution Summit, you’ll have the opportunity to create solutions that will leave a lasting impact on our energy future. Register here.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) invite you to Solar Power International, September 24-27, in Anaheim, California. Registration opens in spring of 2018 here.


Announcements and Opportunities

The Michigan Battle of the Buildings is April 18. Join the awards and recognition program for energy use reduction today! The competition is open to all Michigan area commercial, industrial, non-profit, educational institutions & multi-family buildings. Any building type except single family residential. Registration ends March 31.

Nominations are now being accepted for the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards to honor Michigan organizations and individuals for their commitment to responsible energy production and consumption. The Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards celebrate outstanding achievements by recognizing people and organizations that have taken firm, meaningful actions to stop energy waste. Last year, energy solutions honored at the awards ranged from installing energy-efficient, state-of-the-art heating, cooling and lighting systems to common-sense, lower-cost steps like caulking windows and adding insulation. Nominations can be submitted online at through March 31 with winners to be announced at a celebration in the fall. 

The Michigan Agency for Energy announced a $400 discount for public building operators who attend building operator certification classes this year in Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Lansing or Detroit. Register here for a Level 1 class and here for a Level 2 class.