Newsletter: GM inks 200 MW Midwest wind contract – in Ohio and Illinois

This newsletter was originally published on September 22, 2017.

Challenging renewable energy purchasing process forces companies to look to other states

The market for corporate procurement of renewable energy continues to grow, with General Motors announcing plans this week to purchase 200 MW of wind energy from Ohio and Illinois to help it reach its goal of 20% power from renewable resources by next year. This follows to company’s plans to derive all its electricity needs worldwide from advanced energy resources by 2050.

GM’s decision to draw advanced energy from out of state reflects difference in corporate purchasing regulations between Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois. Currently in Michigan, corporations are forced to select from the options offered by utilities. If they aren’t given the opportunity to derive as much energy as they want or need from renewable resources in Michigan, they’re forced to look to other states.

On the other hand, according to a report by Greentech Media, Illinois is the second of the most favorable states in which to purchase advanced energy (following Iowa), with Ohio not far behind, in 8th place. Michigan ranks 29th.

However, efforts currently underway at the Michigan Public Service Commission could expand opportunities for companies to purchase more of their electricity from renewable resources. A provision of the 2016 energy law requires utilities to offer voluntary green power pricing programs, and utilities are required to submit their plans to the Commission by October 18. Michigan EIBC and a number of other parties, including a group of corporate renewable energy purchasers, have urged the Commission to adopt measures that would expand the opportunities to purchase renewables through competitively priced, well structured programs.

In addition to this state work, Advanced Energy Economy’s (AEE’s) Advanced Energy Buyers Group is working to reshape policies to make it easier. AEE’s Advanced Energy Buyers Group hopes to influence policy in the following areas:

  1. Employing tariffs that make it easier for large corporate buyers to procure advanced energy from offsite projects at competitive prices, while continuing to work with their current utilities;
  2. Imposing regulations that allow for more direct Power Purchase Agreement contracts, by allowing organizations to switch from an incumbent utility to one that offers advanced energy options without penalizing ratepayers;
  3. Providing support for on-site investments in energy generating or storage technologies;
  4. Implementing “shared” program policies that include both residential and non-residential customers; and
  5. Introducing bills requiring state utility commissions to consider corporate advanced energy purchasing, energy efficiency and energy storage in their Integrated Resource Planning processes.

Michigan EIBC will continue its aggressive efforts to expand the market for voluntary renewable energy purchases, including weighing in on the plans proposed by Michigan utilities next month.


A Message from the Michigan EIBC President following Drive Electric Week

Liesl Clark, President of Michigan EIBC

Last week was Drive Electric Week, and Michiganians across the state are beginning to realize the many benefits of driving an electric vehicle (EV). EV sales zoomed past projections every month of the year in 2017, and EV sales were 31 percent higher in 2017 than 2016. With more than 28,500 jobs in the advanced transportation industry, Michigan is uniquely positioned to lead in this emerging sector.

Why go electric? A key benefit to owning an EV is the savings. Research shows that longer vehicle life and lower fuel and maintenance costs make EVs cheaper annually than regular gasoline vehicles, even before federal purchase incentives, and state programs to accelerate EV purchases, including innovative and attractive EV charging rates. The fact is, electricity is cheaper per mile than gas. While gas costs a little more than $2.50 per gallon, the comparative cost for EVs is just $1.20 per “e-gallon” — less than half the cost of traditional gasoline.

Traditional cars that run on gasoline require excessive maintenance, including regular oil changes and trips to the mechanic. Electric vehicles don’t need oil changes, and because they are engineered to operate with only one moving part in the motor, they are much less susceptible to engine issues. In fact, for owners of a new Chevy Bolt, the first scheduled maintenance isn’t due until 100,000 miles.

Self-driving vehicles are the next big step for the transportation industry, and this mobility industry is increasingly based on electric vehicle technology. At the federal level, lawmakers are taking steps to move self-driving vehicle development forward. In fact, last week 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.

Building on our automotive heritage, Michigan has positioned itself as a leader in mobility services, including Planet M, a public-private partnership initiated by state government; the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti; and the upcoming Powering Mobility conference on Monday, Sept. 25 in Detroit, focusing on the convergence of energy, telecommunications and transportation.

Advancements in battery technology will also play a critical role in getting more EVs on the road as Michigan’s battery industry continues to grow. LG Chem just announced another $25 million investment in Hazel Park that is expected to result in over 250 jobs. The industry is at the forefront of developing the technology necessary to continue to power advanced electric vehicles and support the electricity grid. Marrying together state mobility strategies with opportunities to scale EV usage and battery development gives Michigan a unique win-win opportunity.

Electric vehicles save drivers money and are the future of transportation. In addition, EVs are increasingly central to development and deployment of self-driving vehicles.

As home to the U.S. auto industry and a major global player in both batteries and the development of mobility solutions, Michigan is uniquely positioned to lead in this industry and develop the cars of the future. Indeed, we already are.

This article was originally published in The Detroit News.


Commissioner Norm Saari addresses energy industry leaders at UP Energy Roundtable

Michigan Public Service Commissioner Norm Saari spoke Tuesday at the Upper Peninsula Energy Roundtable hosted by the Institute for Energy Innovation and Michigan Energy Options.

Issues covered in the Energy Roundtable include utility energy planning, consideration of alternatives beyond fossil-fueled central generation, and opportunities and barriers to self-generation—including both solar and combined heat-and-power.

IEI and Michigan Energy Options hosted the Energy Roundtable ahead of the Michigan Public Service Commission’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) hearing in Marquette.


The long-awaited MEC4: Powering Mobility Conference is this Monday

The Powering Mobility conference is this coming Monday, September 25, at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. The conference, 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 event is a collaboration between the following organizations:

We are grateful for the support of our sponsors:

Renewing Members:

NOVI Energy offers a variety of services whose main goal is to increase efficiency, economic performance, and reliability of our customer’s current systems. We bring our real world development and operations experience into our consulting work, offering first-hand knowledge of the best available technologies in the marketplace. NOVI Energy is a strong project development company with many years of experience in design, construction, and ownership of small to large scale power and energy generation facilities spanning a range of technologies including both conventional and renewable fuels.


Michigan Energy News:

  • Michigan regulators issued a controversial order requiring power providers to buy or produce electricity from within the state, but the companies won’t have to comply until 2022. Legislation is in the works to prohibit the Michigan Public Service Commission from putting in-state generation rules on alternative electricity suppliers, said Rep. Gary Glenn, chair of the House Energy Policy Committee.
  • SB 375, which would expand PACE laws to include anaerobic digesters, was referred out of the Senate Local Government Committee on Tuesday. The Committee also reported HB 4457, which would authorize community colleges to use tax exempt lease purchase agreements to finance energy upgrades.
  • House Democrats have a plan to make Michigan schools more energy efficient.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense is planning a microgrid project at Fort Custer.
  • Eastern Michigan University is on the road to energy self-sufficiency.
  • Michigan EIBC member company Cypress Creek Renewables has plans for a 2 megawatt development in mid-Michigan.
  • Martin Public Schools broke ground on a new solar project.
  • A report says Michigan installed 65 MWs of solar in the second quarter of this year, nearly doubling the total output in current inventory.
  • On Monday, New Haven Township in Shiawassee County hosted a presentation against wind energy by Kevon Martis of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition.
  • Michigan State University is leading a $10 million U.S. Energy Department grant to explore ways to boost the yield of a biofuel crop.
  • Newaygo County waste-to-energy plant reopens.
  • A state pipeline safety board in Michigan is asking Michigan Technological University to perform a risk analysis of the Line 5 pipeline after a contract with a company was canceled over conflict of interest issues.
  • Consumers Energy have reached a deal to give retired coal plant B.C. Cobb and $1M to a North Carolina developer.
  • U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao visited Ann Arbor to talk autonomous vehicles.


News from Washington:

  • Following Hurricane Harvey, a company overseeing cleanup detected three spills at the Houston-area U.S. Oil Recovery Superfund toxic waste site. The Environmental Protection Agency is assessing the site but has not publicly acknowledged the spills that were reported to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center hotline.
  • The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the EPA for allegedly violating the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry has opposed with a Trump administration proposal to sell off portions of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying recent hurricanes show why the country needs an emergency crude oil supply. 
  • Two Democratic Senators are threatening to delay a confirmation vote for Susan Bodine, President Trump’s nominee for the EPA’s enforcement office


Cities and Communities Leading in Advanced Energy:


National Grid & Efficiency News:


National Solar News:

  • The Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, started under President Obama, has reached its goal of reducing the price of utility-scale solar to 6 cents per KWh three years ahead of schedule, prompting the Trump administration to set a new goal of 3 cents by 2030.
  • Utility-scale solar is rapidly growing, with capacity expected to reach 29 GW by the end of 2017, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • A report finds that interest in solar is up in all 50 states, but many customers feel there’s a lack of options where they live, and the financial benefits aren’t enough to persuade some to buy.
  • Prices for utility-scale solar dropped about 30% over the last year, mostly due to a mismatch between supply and demand in China, according to a new report.
  • A new study highlights a lack of diversity in the solar industry.
  • North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, GAF, unveiled its new solar roof.
  • Berkeley Lab’s “Utility-Scale Solar 2016” found solar power increasingly competitive.
  • A handful of Florida residents used solar panels and storage systems to keep the power on after Hurricane Irma.
  • Politicians are trying to block rooftop solar power nationwide, says a sustainability research associate at Center for Biological Diversity.
  • An Illinois county is developing solar regulations based on interest for large projects by Michigan EIBC member company Cypress Creek Renewables.
  • An automobile dealership and repair company in southern Illinois nears completion of a $1 million solar project at seven of its businesses in the region, which is expected to pay for itself in five years.
  • An Iowa utility looks to create two new rate classes for customers who generate some of their own energy, which advocates say could lead to new fees for distributed solar.
  • Panasonic says it will close a solar plant in Salem, Oregon, next month, leaving 92 people without jobs.
  • Utah regulators are considering a proposal to grandfather current net-metering customers into the existing system through 2035.
  • Officials dedicate a new 1 megawatt solar project in Wisconsin.
  • A 1.34 MW solar project at an Ikea in Indiana will be the state’s largest rooftop installation.
  • West Virginians are finding new opportunities in the solar industry.


National Wind News:

  • The Alphabet-owned wind power startup Makani says it plans to test an airborne plane with wind turbines next year in Hawaii. 
  • The permitting process is moving forward for a 44.6 MW wind project in southwest Minnesota, and developers hope to start construction in the spring.
  • Missouri-based brewing company Anheuser-Busch signs a deal to buy 152.2 MW of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm.
  • A Republican state senator from Ohio introduces a bill to loosen property setback restrictions for wind turbines that were imposed three years ago.
  • Apple Inc. broke ground on a 202 MW wind farm in Oregon.
  • Residents provide input to state regulators on a major wind project in South Dakota that was first conceived in 2008.
  • Michigan EIBC member company Invenergy has signed a 125 MW power purchase agreement with Kimberly-Clark to supply electricity from the 300 MW Santa Rita wind energy center in Texas.
  • Residents in a Wisconsin county continue to debate whether wind turbines have negative health impacts


National Bioenergy News:

  • The energy generated from the Hurricane Irma debris will fuel the Florida grid.
  • A developer transforms two historic warehouses in Minneapolis into apartments with geothermal heating components.
  • North Carolina advocates want the state to revoke a permit for a proposed biomass wood pellet facility.
  • Wisconsin regulators approve a $15 million grant to build a new facility that will be powered by dairy farm manure and other waste.


National Fossil Fuel and Nuclear News:

  • A plan to build an 895 MW coal plant in southwest Kansas appears to be dead, and the developer is writing off as a loss more than $93 million it has already spent on the project.
  • Federal regulators overruled a decision to deny a permit for a 7.8-mile natural gas pipeline that will fuel a 650 MW power plant in New York.
  • Under the terms of a court settlement, a California utility agreed to form an expert panel to study its nuclear waste disposal dilemma, but it may not bring a solution on spent fuel any closer.
  • Santee Cooper’s retiring CEO says South Carolina’s unfinished nuclear reactors should not be sold and the project could be finished in the future.


National Technology & Market News:


National Vehicle & Mobility News:

  • A poll found that U.S. consumers are still leery about autonomous vehicles.
  • Reductions in battery costs for electric vehicles have extended the ranges of vehicles, leading to lower costs per mile, according to the International Energy Agency. However, the average price of electric vehicles increased globally last year.
  • The nation’s largest fast-charging system is pairing used electric vehicle batteries with charging stations to help avoid demand charges
  • Mercedes-Benz announces that it will begin selling “the world’s first electric vehicle with fuel-cell/battery powertrain” in the U.S. by late 2019.
  • Daimler AG’s truck unit signed the United Parcel Service Inc. as its first U.S. commercial customer for the automaker’s new Fuso eCanter, an electric short-range truck.
  • Tesla founder Elon Musk tweets that he will unveil the company’s electric semi-truck on Oct. 26. 
  • Arizona Public Service Co. and Southern California Edison are combating the “duck curve” problem by revamping demand response programs, changing rate design and rolling out electric vehicle pilots.


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:

Join the Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) at the “Building the Case for Energy and Resource Efficiency” Conference, September 21, in Milwaukee. This conference will show simple steps to reduce energy costs, how to sell projects internally, and recent case studies of energy efficiency projects. Register here
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.


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. 

Energy leaders — 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.