Newsletter: During Clean Energy Week, Powering Mobility Conference Highlights Industry Growth, Harvest Energy Solutions Heads to the Hill for Farm Bill Hearing

This newsletter was originally published on September, 29, 2017.

Powering Mobility Conference Highlights Growth, Opportunities for Connected, Autonomous, Electric, Shared Vehicle Future

The 4th Michigan Energy Future Conference, Powering Mobility, was held this past Monday at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. The event, featuring speakers in the automotive, charging, and energy storage industries – as well as utility representatives, regulators, and policymakers – considered how these groups can work together to enable the connected, autonomous, shared, and electrified future of mobility.

Mobility is changing rapidly as the pace of technological innovation continues to explode. As Jon Walker of Lyft said in a panel on the ways in which vehicle electrification enables the development of mobility solutions, “Electrification is not changing from oats to hay – it’s changing from the horse and buggy to the car.” It’s true. This move to automated, connected, shared, and electric vehicles is a transition beyond a change in fuel; it will fundamentally alter how we drive.

And Michigan is well positioned to lead the world this exciting change. Our Detroit OEMs are competing not only leading the global market with other automakers but also with technology and innovation players who are smashing every expectation of what we think of as transportation so that the focus is how to build the runway to an advanced mobility future.

In a luncheon keynote, Rachel Bhattacharya, Chief Growth Officer of Maven, discussed GM’s and Maven’s growing EV fleet and the positive responses they received from private and commercial drivers.

Rachel Bhattacharya is the Chief Growth Officer of Maven, General Motors’ startup company for advanced mobility services.

The ride-sharing sector, in which companies like Maven and Lyft operate, is expanding to empower portions of our population to do what they want to do and get where they want to go to fuel their own futures – often without owning a vehicle of their own. And the enabler of all of this automation, advanced computing, and sharing is electrification.

Autonomous vehicles require electricity to power their telecommunication and data management features already, and electric drivetrains offer additional advantages in acceleration and deceleration for connected and self-driving vehicles. Put simply, it is easier for computers to drive electric vehicles because they have fewer moving parts and the main components – battery, inverter, and electric motor – more easily communicate with each other.

And industry is leading the way. Automakers are making impressive steps in vehicle technology, while energy storage companies are shedding cost and investing in infrastructure to produce the needed batteries. Battery costs continue to decline, while storage densities continue to increase – creating a virtuous cycle that makes batteries and EVs increasingly attractive and economic.

As costs come down and as vehicle technology integration gets smarter, faster, and cheaper, customer demand grows. A recent Navigant report projects electric vehicle sales to be 50% higher in 2017 than in 2016.

Customer education about EVs and the benefits of driving electric and deployment of charging infrastructure continue to be two primary barriers to overcome.

Electric vehicle owners need access to public charging – including charging stations off highways, in parking garages at workplaces, and integrated into commercial corridors – and they need to be reassured that they will have just as much opportunity to charge their vehicle as they would have to fill up a gas car. Michigan’s utilities, along with private sector companies, can play a pivotal role in developing this infrastructure. Time and time again we hear that if done correctly, utility programs could spur EV growth in Michigan, benefitting all residents.

Utilities are increasingly recognizing that electric vehicles represent a potential growth market in a world of otherwise declining or level electricity demand. Dynamic rates and time of use rates are needed to enable the right signals to ensure that we don’t just add a huge amount of load to the grid but instead use it to shave peaks.

As businesses and utilities install charging stations, regulators and policy-makers are working to enable the necessary infrastructure through planning, rate design, and incentive structures.

At the federal level, lawmakers are taking steps to move self-driving vehicle development forward. In fact, recently the U.S. House took an unusual bipartisan approach by passing HR 3388, titled, “the SELF DRIVE Act,” to create a uniform regulatory structure for this new vehicle technology.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Co-chair of the Senate Smart Transportation Caucus, gave the opening remarks, reiterating his support for the innovation at the hands of industry leaders in Michigan, and promised his continued advocacy in the Senate.

At the state level, the Michigan Council on Future Mobility was created by PA 332 last year and will produce annual recommendations that allow Michigan to respond in real-time to changes in the advanced transportation landscape. And, thanks to legislation signed by Governor Rick Snyder last year, Michigan is one of just 6 states that allow self-driving vehicles on public roads.

Marrying together state mobility strategies with opportunities to scale EV usage and battery development gives Michigan a unique win-win opportunity. To seize this opportunity and be a leader in advanced mobility, Michigan needs to continue to act with urgency.

Thanks to our planning committee, sponsors, speakers, and attentive attendees for an excellent conference!


Harvest Energy Solutions Testifies before U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee on Energy Issues in the Farm Bill

Mark Olinyk, President of Michigan EIBC member company Harvest Energy Solutions, testified in favor of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) in the 2018 Farm Bill before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry yesterday. Olinyk – whose Jackson-based company designs, sells, and installs solar panels for its agricultural and rural customers – stated that much of his business’s success and growth was due to REAP’s inclusion in the 2014 Farm Bill.

“REAP has been a component of nearly a quarter of our business,” Olinyk said in Committee. “Not only is it critical to our bottom line, REAP allows our clients to save electricity, save money, achieve greater efficiencies, and make their operations more stable, less risky, and more profitable.”

Beyond this, Olinyk explained, the program helps to grow the clean and efficient energy industry and “create jobs across rural America.”

The reauthorization bill will have to pass out of Committee before being voted on by the full Senate, and then the House.


National Clean Energy Week celebrates remarkable growth of clean energy industry

This week is National Clean Energy Week, an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable growth and strength of America’s clean energy industry. The clean energy economy is growing faster than the national economy, and trends suggest that growth to continue. Here in Michigan, 92,000 of our fellow Michiganders are employed in the clean energy industry, with energy efficiency jobs representing the largest sector. Michigan is also home to the largest advanced transportation workforce in the Midwest.

The renewable energy sector produces a growing share of the country’s energy, but clean and readily abundant forms of energy are powering more than homes and businesses – the growth of this industry is strengthening our national energy security and strengthening our economy. This sector employs more than 3 million workers and represents a whopping $200 billion industry.

This week, clean energy organizations and coalitions advocated in Washington DC to educate policy makers, as well as the general public. Learn more about National Clean Energy Week here.


Renewing Members:

LexTM3 is a leading manufacturer of innovative power distribution and control systems for demanding markets, including entertainment, industrial and the military. The privately-owned company was formed in 2015 as a merger between Lex Products Corp, founded in 1989, and TM3 Systems Inc, founded in 2012. The company specializes in smart and conventional portable power systems including distribution boxes, cable assemblies, connectors, cable protectors and other products, designed to withstand rough use and harsh environments. LexTM3 is ISO 9001:2008 certified across its four U.S. manufacturing facilities and MIL-STD790 Complaint and AS9100 certified at its military facility in Davie, FL.


Michigan Energy News:

  • After a decision from the Michigan Public Service Commission, the closure of the Palisades Nuclear Plant has been delayed until 2022. Consumers Energy, which purchases power from the facility, had previously announced a deal to shutter the plant in 2018.
  • Michigan House Energy Policy Committee Chair Gary Glenn announced that a reform package is in the works to expand the Michigan Public Service Commission from three to and add a “ratepayer” representative to the panel. 
  • Michigan EIBC and others testified at an IRP hearing held by the MPSC in Marquette.
  • Renewable energy jobs are on the rise in West Michigan.
  • According to Michigan Radio, keeping Michigan’s electric grid safe from hackers is a constant battle.
  • A 1 MW solar project in Traverse City that is slated to supply power for a nearby municipal utility is almost complete.
  • The Marquette Board of Light and Power’s 480-panel community solar garden began generating energy this week. 
  • wind turbine technician training program at a southwest Michigan college remains an industry leader. 
  • Isabella Wind opened an office in Rosebush.
  • NextEra Energy withdrew its appeals before the Michigan Tax Tribunal.
  • After nine years of commercial wind energy development, Michigan researchers say they now have a better sense of what drives support and opposition for projects across the state. 
  • General Motors is among a group of companies to form the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, which aims to address companies’ carbon emission goals through heating and cooling functions across factories or campuses.
  • Researchers at Michigan State University are testing algae-based technologies for capturing power plant emissions. 
  • Patrick Anderson of Anderson Economic Group LLC. says Michigan’s business community needs to “get serious” about Line 5’s “threat to our economy, our tax base, and our quality of life.”
  • A West Michigan electrical engineer has designed a device that produces renewable energy through saturation vapor pressure.
  • In a Midwest Energy News Q&A, economist Ellen Hughes-Cromwick discussed market forces pushing electric vehicles and clean energy.


News from Washington:


Cities and Communities Leading in Advanced Energy:


National Grid and Efficiency News:


National Solar News:

  • Solar companies across the country are readying themselves for the impact of a decision from the International Trade Committion (ITC) that could trigger new tariffs on imported solar equipment. However, free-trade deals with certain countries could dampen the impact of potential tariffs.
  • SolarWorld Americas – one of the two companies launching the petition for tariffs – says it will hire up to 200 workers following a favorable vote by the International Trade Commission.
  • Meanwhile, renewable energy experts at GTM Research outlined six ways the U.S. can encourage domestic solar manufacturing without tariffs.
  • The Oregon Public Utility Commission adopted a resource value of solar methodology.
  • Kansas regulators say utility customers who generate their own electricity can be charged higher rates to maintain the grid, a decision advocates say will have short-term harm on the state’s residential solar sector.
  • The 10th edition of Berkeley Lab’s annual Tracking the Sun report has been released.
  • A developer unveils initial plans for a major solar project in Indiana, which would come in two phases and total up to 120 MWs.
  • Nebraska landowners continue to install solar panels along the path of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Chicago-area developers, advocates, and government agencies are rushing to prepare local communities to take full advantage of incentives for community solar projects under a new energy law passed last year.
  • Pricing electricity based on peak usage, or time-of-use rates, could help foster a settlement between utilities and solar advocates in Virginia seeking a compromise on net metering.
  • A student group at the University of Wisconsin is looking to install solar panels across campus.


National Wind News:

  • The U.S.’s wind capacity is expected to fall behind that of the European Union by 2020, according to recent predictions. 
  • A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill introduced that would create a 30% investment tax credit for the first 3 GW of offshore wind projects deployed in the U.S.
  • Ameren Missouri announced plans to spend $1 billion on wind turbines in Missouri and neighboring states by 2020, adding 700 MWs of generation.
  • A dispute between a wind developer and an Iowa utility is part of a widespread debate over utility payments to independent producers under PURPA.
  • State senators in Ohio say that bills to reduce the setback restrictions on wind turbines have enough support to pass, but they will still need approval from the House.
  • South Dakota regulators are moving forward on a swift timeline for a proposed 400 MW wind project.
  • Construction has begun on a 210 MW wind project in northern Illinois.
  • A Nebraska city will build a 1.7 MW wind turbine for the municipal utility.
  • Wind energy opponents protested at the Nebraska Capitol as state lawmakers battled over future development there. 


National Bioenergy News:

  • U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota co-sponsored legislation to extend waivers for ethanol-gasoline blends greater than 10%.
  • Minnesota-based Cargill announces plans to build a $90 million biodiesel plant in Wichita, Kansas, which is set to open in January 2019.
  • A new plant at a landfill in Lawrence, Kansas collects the greenhouse gases produced by rotting trash and turns it into fuel for natural-gas-powered vehicles.
  • The EPA is planning to make major cuts to its Renewable Fuel Standard program, which requires refiners to blend more biofuels, such as ethanol, into U.S. gasoline and diesel supplies through 2022.
  • Xcel Energy is planning to close two Minnesota biomass plants, which together represent over half of the state’s current biomass electric generation.


National Fossil Fuel and Nuclear News:


National Technology and Market News:


National Vehicle and Mobility News:


Michigan Energy Events:

SAVE THE DATE: The 5th Annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala will take place on Thursday, November 9 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing. This annual gala recognizes those businesses and policymakers who have done the most to grow the Michigan advanced energy industry. Tickets are on sale now, with sponsorships also available, and nominations for the various award categories are being accepted through next Friday, Sept. 29. All Michigan EIBC member companies and event sponsors are eligible to nominate. Please contact Nicole Forward for more information.
ARPA-E will hold a workshop on “High Efficiency Hybrid Vehicles” from October 12-13 in Southfield. The workshop will convene leading experts in hybrid electric vehicles, fuels, fuel cells, and combustion engines. These subject matter experts will identify innovative research necessary for the development of disruptive technologies that can significantly enhance the efficiency of a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) relative to a conventional vehicle or today’s HEVs. For more information, please visit the workshop page on the ARPA-E website.  
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.
NextEnergy invites you to the Autonomy & Mobility Conference on October 25 in Detroit. Autonomy & Mobility 2017 will provide an open forum for all participants to share ideas. In addition to focused sessions with leading experts, the event will culminate in a unique, interactive exchange among panelists and attendees. Register here


National Energy Events:
The 2017 Midwest Energy Policy Conference is October 3-4. Join policy makers, businesses, advocates and regulators who’ll be broadening their perspectives on infrastructure, energy efficiency and energy economic development through diverse, fact-based presentations. Click here for details.

ACORE Finance West will take place in San Francisco on October 12. The annual conference highlights top investment opportunities and provide the latest insights on the financing of renewable energy and grid modernization efforts in leading western markets.

Curious about the future of renewable energy in the Midwest? Come to the Wind on the Wires Crystal Ball on October 12 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and see what’s in store. Register here.

EUCI’s Renewable Energy PPAs Seminar is October 16-17 in Denver, Colorado. The Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements seminar is designed for those in the renewable energy industry who are new to PPAs or who have worked with PPAs for a while and are ready to gain a deeper understanding of the legal impact of, and allocation of risks under, key PPA provisions. The course will begin with an introduction to the development and financing process and the role of competitive procurement (including RFP solicitations and bilateral negotiations). The instructors will review the various general contract terms found in most non-PPA project agreements that directly impact the PPA negotiations, and provide an overview of environmental and permitting matters that arise in PPA negotiations. 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.

Check out ARPA-E’s “High Efficiency High-Temp Modular Power” workshop, October 19-20, in Washington, D.C. The workshop will focus on the development of next generation of sub-megawatt (<1 MW) high efficiency modular electricity generation systems by taking advantage of recent advancements in process intensification, materials, and manufacturing techniques. For more information, please visit the workshop page on the ARPA-E website.  
EUCI announced its event, “Fundamentals of Distributed Resource (DER) System Planning” for October 23-24 in San Francisco, California. Through presentations and panel discussions, attendees will have the opportunity at this course to consider how distributed energy resources (DER) are changing utility and power industry norms. Register here.

The 2017 U.S. Power and Renewables Summit will take place in Austin on November 7-8. The conference, hosted by Greentech Media, provides an in-depth look at how solar, wind, and related renewable energy technologies are impacting power markeys, and how this interaction is raising key questions and challenges for the industry moving forward.
The U.S. Energy Storage Summit 2017 is taking place December 12-13 in San Francisco. Now in its third year, this event brings together utilities, financiers, regulators, technology innovators, and storage practitioners for two full days of data-intensive presentations, analyst-led panel sessions with industry leaders, and extensive, high-level networking

Mark your calendar for the 5th National Conference on Next Generation Demand Response on February 7-8, in San Diego, California. For more information, and to register, visit the event website 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. 

Make your nominations today for the 2017 Midwest Energy News 40 Under 40. Open to nominations from all sectors involved in the Midwest’s energy transition.
The Energy Department’s Solar Energies Technology Office will award $62 million in grants for early-stage research into concentrated solar power.