Newsletter: Companies, Utility Butt Heads on PURPA

This newsletter was originally published on April 25, 2018.

Companies, Utility Butt Heads on PURPA

On Friday, April 20, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued its first Report on the Implementation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA)

The role of PURPA is to encourage the development of renewable energy without affecting utilities’ retail rates. PURPA does this by requiring that utilities work with a qualifying facility (an independent power producer that either primarily produces renewable energy or uses cogeneration to utilize non-renewable energy efficiently) and purchase energy at the utility’s avoided cost, and then sell supplemental, backup, maintenance, and interruptible power (or standby service) to the qualifying facility on a non-discriminatory basis. Essentially, under this federal law, utilities have an obligation to sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) with any qualified facility as long as the power offered by the qualified facility is cheaper than the utility’s avoided cost. At minimum, the utility is required to meet with the qualified facility and discuss the possibility of a PPA.

A few weeks before the MPSC’s report was released, Michigan solar companies raised concerns that DTE Electric was violating PURPA. The companies, Greenwood Solar LLC (a subsidiary of Michigan EIBC member company Geronimo Energy) and Michigan EIBC member company Cypress Creek Renewables, argued in separate complaints to the MPSC that DTE is refusing to sign renewable energy contracts despite the legal requirement in PURPA that utilities like DTE enter into contracts to purchase power from qualifying facilities.

In a complaint dated April 6, Cypress Creek Renewables contended that after nearly six months of attempted discussions with DTE about plans to build 775 MW of solar power in southeast Michigan, the utility told Cypress Creek that it did not need additional electricity capacity in December. The complaint to the commission ultimately resulted in a brief meeting between Cypress Creek and DTE, but representatives from Cypress Creek reported that the meeting did not resolve any issues, and that the utility is still not giving them the information they need to move forward.

Similarly, in an April 17 complaint, Greenwood contends that it informed DTE that it would be seeking a renewable energy contract for a 20-MW solar array on December 12, but the utility notified Greenwood four days later that it did not need additional renewable energy. The MPSC is currently considering how to determine each utility’s capacity requirements (case U-20095).

While the MPSC is reviewing the solar companies’ complaints, it is also nearing a decision on DTE’s proposal to build a new $1 billion, 1,100-MW natural gas power plant in southwest Michigan. DTE has argued that its own analysis found that building renewable energy projects instead of the proposed natural gas plant would be more costly, but intervenors in the case, including Michigan EIBC, disagree.

In fact, the proposed natural gas plant may be the reason DTE has been avoiding talks with these companies. Irene Dimitry, DTE vice president of business planning and development, confirmed in an interview with Crain’s Detroit Business that DTE has told the solar developers it did not need additional capacity. “We took into account the existing contracts, played them out through the late 2020s. The gas plant is a lot cheaper than PURPA,” Dimitry said.

The proposed natural gas plant is a sticking point for the solar companies: “While making little progress on Cypress Creek’s interconnection applications, DTE continues to seek approval to build its own new generation projects,” Cypress said in its complaint.

Kevin Borgia of Cypress Creek Renewables said that the company hopes the MPSC will push DTE to come to the table and discuss the possibility of a PPA. “All we want is for DTE to comply with the law,” Borgia said.

For an in-depth discussion on the regulatory framework of solar in Michigan, from the perspective of Cypress Creek Renewables, come to Michigan EIBC’s 6th Annual Member Meeting on April 30. Cypress Creek CEO Matt McGovern will speak to these issues, and more, in a main stage Power Chat at the conference.

 

EIBC Testifies Before Energy Committee on Mobility

On Tuesday, April 24, Michigan EIBC and Clean Fuels Michigan testified before the House Energy Policy Committee detailing ongoing efforts to advance alternative fuel vehicles in Michigan. They were joined by Britta Gross, Director of Advanced Vehicle Commercialization Policy at General Motors and John Peracchio, Co-Chair of the Council on Future Mobility.

Since August, 2017, the Michigan Public Service Commission has held two public events to help guide policy decisions in preparation of electric vehicle usage growth in Michigan. An essential goal of the conferences is to provide guidance for utility companies as they develop EV charging pilot programs. Michigan EIBC is also holding ongoing stakeholder meetings to discuss critical issues surrounding EV deployment in Michigan including the utility pilot programs, consumer awareness, charging infrastructure, and fleet electrification.

“Michigan is well-positioned to lead in the autonomous, electrified transportation future. Our automakers, utilities, battery manufacturers, corporations, and policy makers are working together toward that future,” said Liesl Clark, president of Michigan EIBC. “The Public Service Commission’s proactive approach to guiding utility involvement in electric vehicle charging will help position Michigan for success as we anticipate accelerated growth of autonomous and electric vehicles. We look forward to working with lawmakers as they consider policies around electric vehicles to help keep Michigan a leader in mobility and advanced transportation.”

This was the second hearing on this topic before the House Energy Policy Committee organized by Representative Bellino. Liesl Clark, President of Michigan EIBC, testified at the first hearing on March 13, 2018, along with Michigan Public Service Commissioner Norm Saari and representatives from Ford Motor Company, DTE Energy, and Consumers Energy. Experts at both hearings highlighted the connection between autonomous and electric vehicle technology as well as Michigan’s unique position to be a leader on developing electric vehicle policy.

 

Annual Member Meeting is Monday

Matt McGovern, co-founder and CEO of Michigan EIBC member company Cypress Creek Renewables, will join Michigan EIBC president Liesl Clark for a mainstage Power Chat on the “Dynamic Michigan Solar Market in a National Context” at the 6th Annual Member Meeting on April 30 in Lansing.

The event will also include panels on the following topics:

Renewable Energy Siting: Opportunities and Challenges in the Midwest

Behind the Scenes: Microgrids, Nanogrids, and Power Electronics

Grid Modernization: The Distribution System as a Platform for Innovation

Demand Destruction: Discussions on Energy Efficiency

The How, When, Where, and Why of Commercial and Residential Energy Storage

Driving Demand for Advanced Energy

Powering Mobility: The Convergence of Electricity and Mobility

Peering into the Crystal Ball: What the 2018 Election could mean for Energy Policy

Registration closes this Friday at noon. Get your tickets today for this exciting event!

Michigan EIBC thanks our sponsors:

Event Sponsors

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New Members:

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Michigan Energy Stories

  • Advocates are arguing that solar panels should be exempt from property taxes.
  • State Representatives Gary Glenn (R) and Yousef Rabhi (D) are critical of the MPSC’s decision on rooftop solar.
  • The MPSC approved a request by DTE Energy to build two natural gas plants near Detroit despite opposition from environmental groups in southeastern Michigan
  • Michigan activists are planning to host retirement parties for Enbridge’s Line 5 this week.
  • The company being sued for damaging an underwater transmission cable and the Line 5 pipeline in Michigan has faced accusations of negligence in the past. 
  • Environmental activists held a rally last week in anticipation of the MPSC’s upcoming decision on DTE Energy’s certificates of necessity to build a new $1 billion combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plant.
  • The MPSC approved a rate hike for DTE Electric.
  • On April 18, the MPSC approved the initial voluntary green pricing programs of six rate regulated electric providers: Alpena Power Company, Indiana Michigan Power Company, Northern States Power Company-Wisconsin, Upper Peninsula Power Company, Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation, and Wisconsin Electric Power Company.
  • On the MPSC’s distributed generation decision, Michigan EIBC president Liesl Clark said, “I see this as complicated, unfair and costly to the industry.”
  • Charlevoix City Council members are preparing to offer green power options for electric customers.

Michigan Energy Leaders

 

National Energy Stories

  • A bipartisan group of thirteen senators asked the EPA to stop giving waivers to large companies through the use of an authority that is intended to ease small refiners’ obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
  • House lawmakers introduce a bill to repeal a 30% tariff on imported solar products and reimburse the companies that have been affected.
  • The Trump administration is considering using a Cold War-era statute on the basis of national defense to support struggling coal and nuclear plants.
  • A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee approved a series of bills  to protect grids against cyberattacks.
  • A group of 131 representatives and 39 senators signed a joint resolution saying they have “no confidence” in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and calling on him to resign.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt claimed that federal fuel economy standards are killing Americans by encouraging automakers to build flimsy lightweight cars.
  • The EPA plans to announce a new policy that would allow oil and gas companies to self-audit and address their pollution violations instead of going through the EPA.
  • The Smart Electric Power Alliance released a report on microgrids.

National Energy Leaders

 

Michigan Energy Events 
Michigan EIBC’s 6th Annual Member Meeting is scheduled for April 30Register here.

Michigan EIBC’s member-only Lobby Day is May 1. Register here. 

NextEnergy invites you to the Lites Summit in Detroit on Tuesday, May 15. The event includes an optional off-site tour with transportation to the IBEW Local 58 Zero Net Energy Center in Corktown. Register here.

You’re invited to the U.P. Energy Summit on May 23 at Northern Michigan University. Register here.

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     
Join solar & clean energy experts at the 5th annual Midwest Solar Expo & Smart Energy Symposium, April 30-May 2 in Minneapolis, MN. Exhibition, networking, solar farm visit, startup showcase, training, more. Register today!
 
Join Greentech Media for the 11th Solar Summit on May 1-2. Get 15% off with code ENN15.

EUCI invites you to the 2018 New York REV Summit, May 1-2 in Brooklyn, New York. 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.
 
EUCI invites you to the 2018 Residential Demand Charges Conference, May 15-16 in Nashville, Tennessee. Register here.
 
You’re invited to the 3rd Annual Grid Modernization ForumMay 23-24 in Chicago. This event examines the latest business strategies and technology advances for implementing the distributed, intelligent, and renewables-centric grid of the future. Learn more and register here. Use code MWEN for 20% off.

EUCI invites you to the Leadership Conference for Women in Energy 2018 on June 4-5 in St. Louis, Missouri. 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. Register here.

EUCI invites you to the 2018 Western Transmission Summit: From Expansion to Modernization – Addressing the Changing Landscape of Transmission Planning and Investment. This event will be June 11-12 in Denver, Colorado. Register here.

EUCI invites you to a conference on the fundamentals of overhead distribution systems on June 14-15 in Baltimore, Maryland. 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 11June 19-20 in Portland, Oregon. Register here.
 
You’re invited to the Grid Evolution Summit hosted by Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), in Washington, D.C., July 9-12Register here.

EUCI invites you to the Smart Cities 2018 Conference on August 13-14 in Columbus, Ohio. 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
ARPA-E has joined NASA to launch a new NASA iTech challenge, a competition inviting the nation’s top entrepreneurs and researchers to showcase their ideas for transformative energy concepts. Inventors and entrepreneurs can submit a five-page white paper on their concept on the NASA iTech website through April 29. A panel of subject matter experts from NASA and ARPA-E will review ideas submitted and select the top 10 finalists based on their relevance and potential impact.

The Rural Energy for America Program has published a Notice of Solicitation of Applications for Federal Fiscal Year 2018 in the Federal Register. The application templates and forms are available at USDA Rural Development Offices online until April 30.

The Michigan to Montana (I-94) Alternative Fuels Corridor project is currently seeking project partners. Organizations that are interested in being considered for receiving federal funds should prepare a short (i.e. approximately one to three page) project description that includes the project details, projected fuel use, projected project budget (including both requested federal funds and organization supplied matching funds), and estimated timeline for completing the project. Submit your project description to ted.barnes@gastechnology.org. The deadline to submit a proposal is May 31, with partner selections starting in June 2018.

The Michigan Energy Office (MEO) today said communities have until May 31 to take the Michigan Green Communities (MGC) Challenge, a contest that measures communities’ progress toward meeting their current and future energy needs.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced $60 Million in Advanced Transportation Technologies grants, including Smart Mobility and Smart Cities technologies, and projects that bring data together from different systems, such as integrated corridor management and real-time traveler information. The deadline for applications is June 18. Learn about eligibility criteria here.