This newsletter was originally published on May 19, 2017.
Industry groups, legislative leaders raise concerns over DOE grid reliability study
A group of advanced energy industry groups, including Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), the American Wind Energy Association AWEA), and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), this week sent a report and supporting materials to inform the development a study on grid reliability called for by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. This follows a request issued last month from the organizations calling for an open and transparent process that incorporated public input into the process, which seeks to “explore critical issues central to protecting the long-tem reliability of the electric grid.” Secretary Perry did not respond that that request, and a DOE spokesperson indicated that public input would be welcome only after the report was complete. In their submittals, the industry groups conclude that the factors affecting closure of baseload plants has more to do with the shift to natural gas and flat load growth than from the growth of renewables, and that rather than threatening electric system reliability, the increasing diversity of the generation mix actually enhances reliability while saving consumers money.
Meanwhile, a growing group of legislators are raising concerns over the process, with U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) slamming the process as “anti-wind,” and noting in a letter to Secretary Perry his concerns that “a hastily developed study, which appears to pre-determine that variable, renewable sources such as wind have undermined grid reliability will not be viewed as credible, relevant or worthy of valuable taxpayer resources.”
Utility announcements highlight transition to advanced energy
A pair of announcements this week from Michigan’s largest utilities highlight the many changes taking place in the electricity sector, even amid uncertainty over the future of the federal Clean Power Plan. On Tuesday, DTE Energy announced its intention to reduce its carbon footprint by 80% by 2050 when compared to a 2005 baseline. When implemented, the likely result is an increase in the utility’s energy waste reduction efforts and the transition from coal to natural gas and renewable energy as generation sources, while maintaining the current Fermi 2 nuclear facility. While the DTE announcement is not binding, DTE announcement stated that they had a strategy for meeting their targets and could achieve their goals without raising rates faster than inflation. The goals and process set out are likely to be reflected in a Certificate of Necessity filing to related to new natural gas development, which is anticipated later this year.
In the meantime, Consumers Energy filed an application with the Michigan Public Service Commission to expand its offerings for large customers seeking to power their operations with renewable energy. In the application, Consumers proposes a subscription model whereby customers with load of 1MW or more could select to power all or part of their operations with renewable energy, paying the utility a fixed rate and receiving a credit based on energy and capacity values for the resources used. Consumers also proposes a direct purchase model under which customers with new load of at least 3MW could sleeve transactions through the utility for an administrative cost of 0.2 cents/ kWh, plus applicable power supply, delivery, and transmission costs, as well as surcharges.
While there are many details yet to be resolved, these announcements reflect broad changes impacting the state’s electricity markets, including a shift in the generation fleet from coal to natural gas and renewables, the incorporation of demand-side resources, and an increasing focus on customer preferences for advanced energy resources. Michigan EIBC intends to continue to playing an active role as the details of these announcements are fleshed out, and looks forward to ensuring the views of Michigan’s advanced energy industry are heard.
Member Highlight: Chart House Energy finances rooftop solar arrays on fire stations
Rob Rafson, President and Founder of Chart House Energy, has a long-standing commitment to providing affordable solar energy and creating sustainable jobs in the growing advanced energy economy. Chart House Energy’s recent projects are just one example of this mission: The company has been financing rooftop solar panels installations for fire stations.
Solar array on Ypsilanti Fire Station rooftop.
Chart House financed the installation of 176 285-watt solar panels on the Ypsilanti Township Fire Department roof to generate over 50 kW of power. The project saved the city money in the installation, and the power generated, enough to offset 75% of the station’s electricity consumption, is expected to increase savings down the road.
“Communities benefit much more if solar projects are sighted in distressed communities, rather than just using their labor for short-term construction jobs,” said Rafson. “And that’s exactly what Chart House Energy intends to do.”
Another exciting project Chart House is working on is financing a solar installation on the roof of the Ypsilanti Housing Commission coupled with solar labor training in an effort to develop an advanced energy trade base in the community and create high-paying, sustainable jobs in building, operation, and long-term maintenance.
Rafson hopes more cities will follow this model, saying, “I think cities should partner with for-profit entities to take advantage of tax benefits … and provide high-paying jobs.”
Updates from the Public Service Commission
The Michigan Public Service Commission approved updates to the Certificate of Necessity filing requirements that electric utilities must submit under the new law. Changes include lowering of the project cost threshold from $500 million to $100 million and adding a filing announcement that utilities must submit 30 days before the proposed filing in the case (Case No. U-15896).
The MPSC also set a June 1 deadline for comments on establishing a distributed generation program, as well as guidelines for utility customers who are in a net metering program or plan to begin using net metering (Case No. U-18383). Comments regarding the state reliability mechanism, demand response workgroup and distributed generation guidelines can be sent to email@example.com.
The MPSC also called for convening a workgroup by June 20 to propose a framework for the evaluation and cost recovery of demand response investments by regulated electric utilities (Case No. U-18369), as well as posed several questions on helping refine the scope of issues related to the state reliability mechanism process that energy providers will use to demonstrate the adequacy of their electric supplies (Case No. U-18197). Questions to be answered include: which methods will be used to determine reliability, scheduling of capacity demonstrations, and what process should be used for guidance from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator in determining capacity obligations. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to comment on these issues is 5 p.m. May 26, followed by a 5 p.m. June 5 deadline for replies to the comments. The PSC expects to issue another order June 15 providing guidance related to the threshold issues.
The MPSC also scheduled technical conferences for June 8, 29 and 30 and July 10 so stakeholders can try to reach consensus on how to structure the capacity demonstration process. After the conferences, MPSC staff will file their recommendations by August 1. The MPSC intends to issue an order September 28 establishing the capacity demonstration process.
Michigan EIBC participates in all Public Service Commission workgroups to advocate on behalf of its members regarding changes to energy policy. To become a member and gain more in-depth briefings on the status of the new energy laws, as well as an opportunity to have your company’s concerns addressed, please email Nicole.
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MICHIGAN ENERGY NEWS:
- Traverse City Light and Power is entering into a 20-year power purchase agreement for solar energy.
- A Michigan Tech study suggests outfitting military infrastructure with solar PV microgrid systems.
- An Escanaba-based solar project will proceed after years of consideration. The city is now deciding between two alternative sites to develop the system that would reduce power costs for all city customers.
- Generate Capital has bought, and is planning to reopen, the Fremont bioenergy facility.
- A new $2.5 million initiative aims to curb energy waste across the state. The Department of Energy is covering half the cost of LiTES, while Michigan EIBC member company NextEnergy, the Michigan Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are covering the other half.
- Robert Richardson, an environmental economist at Michigan State University, was among those dismissed by the U.S. EPA from a scientific review board that has weighed in on climate and pollution issues.
- The Michigan Energy Office is offering a discount for public building operators to attend certification program in Marquette that reaps big energy savings.
- The EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor may be eliminated under the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to the EPA budget. At stake are the jobs of nearly half of the 436 scientists and engineers at the Ann Arbor facility who research vehicle emissions.
- Consumers Energy released their annual Sustainability Report for 2017.
- DTE Energy is considering a proposal to put a solar array on the site of a shuttered coke plant in Pennsylvania
- The Michigan Public Service Commission continues to weigh if Consumer’s Energy should end its contract with Entergy for power from the Palisades nuclear plant.
- Ann Arbor ranks 1st in U.S. for clean technology ‘innovation density,’ according to a recent report from the Brookings Institution.
- After voters in areas of Michigan with the most wind development to date rejected additional projects last week, developers are regrouping and remain uncertain about future plans there.
- Advocates on both sides of the wind debate remain divided following testimony at the House Energy Committee last week regarding wind energy. According to Michigan EIBC President Liesl Eichler Clark, the discussions of new proposals often fall short in covering the financial benefits for landowners and local government: “I think (the votes) are just another indicator that we’ve got to have really good public engagement to support additional development. Developers and utilities will tell you that they want to be in communities that want them, and there are a lot of very important economic opportunities that can be harnessed for real communities from wind development. The question becomes whether developers and utilities are seeking out those communities.”
- As the debate for advanced energy in Huron County continues, local voters will be able to discuss the possibility of solar energy development at a special meeting of the Huron County Planning Commission tonight. The Huron County Board of Commissioners had sent the planners a resolution recommending a moratorium on solar development for review.
- A major gas leak in southeast Michigan forced residents to evacuate and a high school to go into lockdown.
- The demolition of Endicott, a retired coal plant, is on hold as negotiations continue over environmental remediation.
- According to Michigan EIBC member company Black & Veatch, electric vehicle adoption won’t reach its full potential without the right infrastructure.
- Michigan senators continue to push for the development of autonomous vehicles.
NATIONAL ENERGY NEWS:
- At least $50 billion worth of energy projects nationwide were paused due to a lack of quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. President Trump has nominated Neil Chatterjee, a longtime aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rob Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, to fill two of the FERC vacancies. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairperson Lisa Murkowski said the appointees’ confirmation hearings would be scheduled soon.
- Amid controversy over a new bill to phase out net metering, advocates in Indiana are seeking a new comprehensive statewide energy plan. Meanwhile, a local initiative is encouraging residents to commit to installing solar panels before the new law phasing out net metering takes effect.
- Minnesota regulators approved a multi-year rate increase for Xcel Energy to pay for infrastructure upgrades.
- California’s governor expects to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program in the next month.
- NRG Energy Inc. board members may recommend selling the company’s renewable-energy business to cut costs.
- Five Midwest startups were awarded nearly $1 million in early-stage funding at the Chicago-based Clean Energy Trust Challenge.
- A deal to continue construction at the Vogtle nuclear plant after contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy expired and Georgia Power is looking for alternatives to keep the project going.
- Some worry that a plan by Dominion Energy to supply 100% advanced energy to commercial and industrial customers runs the risk of preventing third parties from competing and reducing customer choice.
- According to the global head of corporate responsibility and inclusion at Thomson Reuters, investing in green technology and sustainability should be a joint effortbetween the public and private sector.
- Advanced energy advocates worry that a Minnesota bill might “undermine strides in growing the clean economy and in combating climate change.”
- California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit board voted to power the commuter train system with 100% advanced energy by 2045.
- Small turbines from a Silicon Valley firm may shift the wind energy market.
- Maryland approved two offshore wind projects.
- A legislative committee unanimously rejected a bill that would move a wind energy test site in Maine 7 miles farther out to sea.
- A Florida entrepreneur has started a company to create community financing for wind projects.
- Kansas’ wind energy industry can expect major growth, according to an industry group.
- Greentech Media experts analyze the shifting U.S. solar market.
- Customers can now order Tesla’s solar roof tiles, and installations are expected to start in the U.S. next month.
- Construction on a 4-megawatt solar project at the site of a former Cleveland-area landfill will start in September.
- Grid operators will face a “unique challenge” this summer as a solar eclipse is expected to cause in a 6,000-megawatt shortage in California’s solar grid.
- A Minnesota-based solar module manufacturer, Ten K Solar, says it will discontinue its current operation and terminate many services due to pricing pressures and difficult market conditions.
- SolarWorld files for insolvency, citing ‘ongoing price erosion’.
- Florida lawmakers sent a solar tax break plan to Governor Scott.
- Democratic senators are asking federal regulators to launch an investigation into activist investor Carl Icahn’s activities in the U.S. biofuels blending credit market.
- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will centralize the agency’s decision-making process away from regional administrators and focus the agency on the mission of cleaning up Superfund sites.
- Expanded advanced energy production is causing consistent negative pricing for California gas plants. Southern California Edison plans to boost its revenue by up to $1.4 million a year using a hybrid power plant that uses battery storage as well as a quick-start natural gas turbine.
- According to the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas has displaced coal in the Northeast.
- Local officials in Illinois approved tax breaks for a 1,100 MW natural gas plant.
- Four states filed a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s decision to resume the sale of coal leases on federal lands without environmental review.
- In new court filings, Exelon argues in favor of Illinois’ Zero Emission Credit program supporting nuclear plants, citing the fact that states have legal authority to determine their fuel mixes and the precedent that FERC has supported similar programs in the past.
- A new automated biodiesel pumping station was unveiled in western South Dakota.
- A Madison Gas and Electric shareholder says the utility can be an advanced energy leader by embracing electric transportation.
- Last-minute Obama-era regulations on energy efficient lightbulbs under have created confusion in the industry.
MICHIGAN ENERGY EVENTS:
This year’s Annual PlugVolt Battery Seminar is scheduled for July 18-20 in Ann Arbor. For more information, or to sign up, visit the website here.
The Michigan Public Service Commission 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 email@example.com.
SAVE THE DATE: The 4th Annual Michigan Energy Conference will take place Monday, September 25 at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. This year’s conference theme is Powering Mobility and will focus on how innovation, advanced energy, information technology, and new transportation business models are fueling the rapid growth of the global market for mobility solutions. More details will be available soon!
NATIONAL ENERGY EVENTS:
The annual AWEA Windpower Conference is taking place May 22-25 in Anaheim, CA. The marquee event for the US wind industry returns with top-tier speakers, world-class education, cutting edge technology, and premium marketing.
TRC is hosting a two-day conference on Developing Solar on Landfills and Brownfields on June 12-13 in Chicago. The event brings together landowners, who will learn about how to turn their brownfield liabilities into clean energy assets, while solar developers will learn how to choose and develop on brownfields.
Greentech Media’s Grid Edge World Forum 2017 will be held in San Jose, CA on June 27-29. As the only conference exclusively focused on emerging distributed energy system, this event highlights the trends, opportunities, and innovation happening at the grid edge.
A web page from the Michigan Public Service Commission provides details on the laws, which took effect on April 20. For more information, or to sign up for notifications, visit michigan.gov/energylegislation.
The Michigan Energy Office (MEO), in partnership with the States of Tennessee, Georgia, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, the National Association of State Energy Officials, and The Climate Registry, is inviting interested parties to comment on the National Energy Efficiency Registry (NEER) Principles & Operating Rules, which are open for public comment until May 31, 2017. Information on the NEER can be found at NEERegistry.org, as well as a FAQ document and description of sample NEER user scenarios.
An important new voice in the political debate – AEE Action Fund. AEE Action Fund is a non-affiliated PAC managed by volunteers of Advanced Energy Economy. Our mission is to elect champions who are committed to our vision of a prosperous world run by secure, clean, affordable energy. Primarily focused on elections at the state level, the fund will engage in key states where the public policy debate will impact the industry’s ability to compete in the market and modernize our energy system. Our goal is to ensure that advanced energy is able to provide a counterweight to the status quo voices of incumbent interests. We invite you to stay informed of the Fund’s activities by visiting the website and signing up today.