Newsletter: Consumers, DTE Unveil Community Revitalization Efforts; DOE Draft Study Finds Renewables Help Grid Reliability

This newsletter was originally published on July 21, 2017.

Michigan Utilities Launch Community Revitalization Efforts

Michigan’s two largest utilities this week unveiled community-based revitalization projects in Grand Rapids and Detroit.

In west Michigan, Consumers Energy is partnering with Michigan EIBC member Rockford Construction to launch a new energy district entitled “Circuit West.” The ten-block district on the west side of Grand Rapids will test and deploy advanced energy for local businesses and residents. According to the project developers, Circuit West will create a first-of-its-kind solar-plus-storage community, drawing solar energy from the rooftop of a nearly 40,000 square-foot Meijer store. The development will also have electric vehicle charging stations and greater bandwidth for advanced communications and internet service.

While the timeline for the Circuit West project has not been announced, Rockford has been leading the redevelopment of the area, including an outpost of Holland-based New Holland Brewing. The area houses Rockford’s LEED Platinum office, as well as the office of Michigan EIBC member Catalyst Partners (which received the highest-ever score for LEED for New Construction), and sits within the boundaries of the Grand Rapids 2030 District.

On the other side of the state, DTE Energy and the City of Detroit unveiled Beacon Park. DTE began working on the outdoor entertainment hub back in 2008, purchasing land to preserve the green space. The park boasts interactive light installations and an “[infusion] of light, energy and motion” that creates a unique experience for visitors. To that end, the park will be home to a Belgian-inspired restaurant called Lumen. Beacon Park is expected to be a place for music, family activities, food trucks and vendors, and outdoor recreation, and DTE’s goal is for the park to draw urban revitalization to the area northwest of downtown. The grand opening is being kicked off with a free festival this weekend.

Draft DOE Study: Renewables are not a Threat to Grid

A draft Department of Energy study on grid reliability finds no evidence that advanced energy resources threaten reliability, and that energy efficiency, battery storage and demand response efforts actually improve the reliability of the grid.

The draft study further found that the lower demand for and cost of natural gas has been the driving force behind coal and nuclear closures – not increased emphasis on advanced energy.

Energy Secretary Perry originally commissioned the study out of expressed concern that efforts to accelerate advanced energy have come at the expense of coal and nuclear energy, and that wind and solar resources pose a threat to grid reliability. The final report is expected to be released soon.

CLEAResult White Paper Highlights Regulatory Innovation that Incentivizes Utilities to Empower Customers with Energy Saving Technologies and Services

Michigan EIBC member company CLEAResult, a leader in developing high-tech energy efficiency programs for utilities, recently released a white paper titled, “Creating Customer and Investor Value Through Energy Efficiency.”

CLEAResult’s paper shows how four states including Michigan innovated to improve their regulatory systems and give utilities meaningful financial incentives to motivate their customers to use less energy.

According to CLEAResult’s study, Michigan has found unique ways to align utilities’ and customers’ interests to ultimately expand energy efficiency offerings and lower costs, while at the same time increasing shareholder value and earned returns. The paper highlighted Michigan’s new energy legislation, which includes both an energy efficiency goal and enhanced incentives, as well as introduces an integrated resource planning process.

Manish Rukadikar, DTE Energy Manager for Strategy, said of the new regulations, “Customer preferences and expectations are changing rapidly, and energy efficiency gives us tools to better serve and empower customers to manage their energy use and monthly bills. We’re very excited about the 2016 Michigan energy legislation which we believe will yield better outcomes for customers, enable more rapid deployment of new technologies, and help us adapt to the changing energy landscape.”

CLEAResult’s paper concluding by emphasizing that these states, including Michigan, could serve as a model for other states wishing to incentivize energy saving. “Any state wishing to lower system costs and empower its citizens to better control energy use while providing financial incentives to utilities could adopt one of these progressive models,” said co-author Doug Lewin, vice president of regulatory affairs and market development at CLEAResult. “There are infinite possible variations, so states can, and should, continue to focus on regulatory innovation as a way to benefit their citizens.”

Michigan Energy News:

  • The Michigan South Central Power Agency will need to find between 63.9 and 128.4 MW of power to meet the increasing needs of customers by 2021, following the closure of the coal-fired Endicott plant in Lichfield.
  • A mystery energy project in Shiawassee County has drawn attention from locals.
  • According to Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman Sally Talberg, utility communication with customers during outages could still use some improvement after storms knocked out power to as many 159,000 people last week.
  • The MPSC has received its first certificate of necessity request from a utility seeking approval of new electric generating resources since a last year’s rewrite of state energy laws: DTE Electric Company submitted a filing announcement at the end of June, with plans to build a 1,100 MW natural gas combined cycle generating facility or buy that capacity from other providers.
  • Michigan’s low-income energy assistance surcharge has been set at 93 cents per month.
  • A solar array project being developed by Michigan EIBC member Inovateus Solar is taking shape on MSU’s campus.
  • A Huron County planner wanted wind developers’ promises in writing, despite concerns from fellow planners that the request could pose a legal threat to the commission.
  • Grand Rapids hired Michigan company Tetra Tech to design a $30M biodigester.
  • The EPA vehicle emissions lab in Ann Arbor received high marks for cost cutting.

News from Washington:

National Grid and Efficiency News:

National Solar News:

National Wind News:

  • According to the Energy Information Administration, wind surpassed coal’s energy capacity factor in April.
  • Wyoming’s wind industry is thriving, to the point that there is a labor shortage.
  • A new report says wind energy is helping keep energy costs low in Iowa. Along with Illinois and Wisconsin, Iowa has some of the lowest monthly energy costs in the U.S.
  • According to Appalachian Power, their plans to acquire two wind farms will benefit the company because of tax credits and a reduced reliance on outside energy purchases.
  • A Nebraska city has plans to buy 16.1 megawatts of energy from a nearby wind project that will be running soon.

National Bioenergy News:

  • A biofuels research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison plans to shift its focus from ethanol to other forms of biofuels after receiving new grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

National Fossil Fuel News:

National Technology and Market News:

National Vehicle and Mobility News:

  • Businesses are contacting Minnesota officials with suggestions on how to spend $47 million in Volkswagen settlement funds the state will receive to reduce air emissions.
  • Drivers anticipate the release of Tesla’s Model 3, but the company still faces challenges as it moves into mass production.
  • Advocates are trying to convince Georgia lawmakers to reinstate a tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles.
  • Oil producers and researchers are forecasting the dramatic adoption of electric vehicles due to falling battery costs, but automakers are less optimistic.
  • Automakers, regulators, legislators and utilities are working together on various incentives to boost sales of electric vehicles.

Michigan Energy Events:
The MPSC will be holding its first Performance Based Regulation (PBR) stakeholders discussion meeting on July 24th from 2:00-5:00 pm at the Lake Michigan Hearing room at the MPSC office at 7109 W. Saginaw, Lansing, MI 48917.  Section 6u of PA 341 directs the Commission to complete a study of PBR and submit it to the Governor and Legislators by April 20, 2018.  The legislative language references collaboration with stakeholders for this study.  The MPSC is requesting input from Michigan utilities as well as other interested parties regarding PBR. Please RSVP to

The MPSC will host a technical conference on the future of electric vehicle charging on August 9 at the public service commission office, 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing. Subject matter experts interested in participating in a panel are asked to submit a letter of interest, resume and summary of expertise to Al Freeman at the commission offices or by e-mail to

SAVE THE DATE: The Powering Mobility conference will take place on September 25 at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. The event, which is the 4th Annual Michigan Energy Future Conference, will bring together leaders from industry, government, utilities, finance, and academe working at the nexus of advanced mobility and vehicle electrification.

The 1st Annual Sustainable Detroit Forum is scheduled for October 25. The event will consist of interactive learning, keynotes, and short presentations. Proposals for presentations will be accepted for Sustainable ProjectsPersonal Green Stories, and Lessons Learned/Greatest Failures.

National Energy Events:
Energy Storage North America will take place August 8-10 in San Diego. As the largest conference and expo for grid-connected energy storage in North America, Energy Storage North America brings together utilities, regulators, municipal leaders, project developers, investors, systems integrators, and commercial and industrial customers for top-tier networking and information sharing.

EUCI is hosting “Addressing Process and Technical Issues for Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources” August 14-15 in Chicago. The conference will serve as a forum for all entities involved in the interconnection process to review process and technical issues for interconnecting grid-scale renewable energy and Distributed Energy Resource (DER) projects. Panel sessions will feature the perspectives of distribution, developers, utilities, and system operators to share their expertise and discuss best practices for optimizing the interconnection process. Register here.

Solar Power International will take place September 10-13 in Las Vegas. Powered by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Smart Electric Power Alliance, SPI is the largest and fastest growing solar show in North America.

Renewable Energy Grid Operations: Integration, Forecasting, Modeling, Planning and Curtailment, hosted by EUCI, is scheduled for September 11-12 in Austin, Texas. This conference will evaluate the biggest challenges to renewable energy integration, and identify solutions and pathways that coordinate responses and overcome these challenges. Case studies from experts and industry professionals from around the country will share their experiences and lessons learned on renewable integration. Register here.

Join SEIA and Smart Electric Power Alliance for Solar Power Midwest in Chicago, October 19-20. The event features multiple networking and educational opportunities with a targeted, buying audience. Register here.

Additional Resources:
A website from the Michigan Public Service Commission provides details on updates to state energy laws. For more information, or to sign up for notifications, visit

World Resources Institute recently published an Implementation Guide for Utilities, outlining best practices in designing renewable energy projects to meet large energy customers’ needs.

The Michigan Energy Office is offering rebates to eligible applicants to upgrade existing public streetlights with LED lights through the Exterior LED Lighting Rebate Program. The purpose of this program is to encourage energy waste reduction and promote community vitality by accelerating the transition to energy efficient LED lighting. MEO will match utility rebates up to $0.35/W reduced. Applicants with no utility rebate will be awarded at a rate of $0.35/W reduced. For more information or to apply, click here.