This newsletter was originally published on June 6, 2018.
Michigan EIBC Members Testify on Energy Freedom Package
On Tuesday, June 15, the House Energy Committee held a third hearing on the Energy Freedom bill package. Three Michigan EIBC members – Douglas Jester of 5 Lakes Energy, Dave Friedrichs of Homeland Solar, and Kevin Borgia of Cypress Creek Renewables – testified in favor of the bill package.
Kevin Borgia, a Michigan EIBC board member, focused his testimony on HB 5861, which would allow for community renewable energy gardens. Borgia explained that Cypress Creek, a North Carolina solar company, believes that HB 5861 presents the opportunity for economic growth and investment, and would expand Michiganders’ access to solar.
“This bill can jumpstart a community solar market in the state of Michigan for the benefit of Michiganders and for the benefit of the economy,” Borgia said.
Homeland Solar’s Dave Friedrichs explained that, as a small Michigan-based solar company, “these energy freedom bills are a necessary part of the equation for business growth.” That’s because, under current policies, 80% of Michiganders are blocked from owning solar power by their situation – whether they live in an apartment or condo, have trees blocking their rooftops, or simply cannot afford the upfront cost of installing solar panels.
“Even though the sun comes up for each of us the same every day, we don’t have equal access to it,” Friedrichs said. HB 5861 would allow them to share ownership of solar. He urged the Committee to prioritize Michiganders’ equal access and rights to the grid.
Finally, Douglas Jester addressed and discredited several myths that had come up in previous hearings on the bill package. He explained that while utilities have significant costs – the costs of building and maintaining plants, transmission and distribution lines, and the grid – they are sunk costs, not fixed costs. The costs are incurred based on projected sales volume, and it is the utility’s job to sell enough power to make up the cost. It is not, Jester explained, the customer’s job to cover the costs at a fixed rate.
Jester also addressed the myth that when customers reduce their energy use and subsequently pay less to the utility, they are being subsidized by other customers. He gave a personal example – referencing how his own power bill went down when his sons moved out. This was not a subsidy; the lower bill simply reflected the change in what he bought from the utility. Similarly, when industrial customers used less electricity during the recession, Jester explained, they were not being subsidized. They were simply using less electricity.
Finally, Jester explained that all customer-related charges are not equal. Again giving a personal example, he discussed the difference in sending power to his city condo and his cottage Up North. In the city, the wire only has to extend 300 feet to get to his condo. At his cottage, much more wire is needed to get the electricity that much farther. Because of this, he said, he should not pay the same “fixed cost” for both residencies, because the cost of getting power to each residency is not fixed.
House Energy Committee Chair Gary Glenn did not announce another hearing on the bill package at this time.
Senate Finance Committee favorably reports SB1031
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Tuesday June 5 on SB1031, which was introduced on May 31 by Senator Proos. The bill creates an exemption from taxation for qualified utility personal property installed after December 31, 2017. The bill specifically exempts from taxation utility personal property as defined by the General Property Tax Act in section 3 (e) (i), (vi), and (vii), which includes electric transmission and distribution systems, substation equipment, spare parts, gas distribution systems, and water transmission and distribution systems;gas storage equipment; and transmission lines of gas or oil transporting companies.
Senator Proos spoke in favor of the bill, suggesting that ratepayers will pay for future investments in the distribution system with increased rates. He believes that this bill would mitigate those rate increases associated with the proposed investments from DTE Energy and Consumers Energy in the distribution system.
Several Committee members including Senator Knollenberg and Senator Bieda, expressed concerns that this bill would significantly decrease revenue to local municipalities, especially because Michigan’s investor-owned utilities are often the largest taxpayers in those communities. Representatives from the Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of Counties, Department of Treasury, Michigan Renewable Energy Collaborative, and Michigan Townships Association spoke in opposition of the bill, while Consumers Energy spoke in favor of the bill.
The Committee voted 4 to 2 to advance the bill to the Senate floor. Senator Knollenberg indicated his interest in working with stakeholders to improve the bill through amendment. For example, there may be interest in narrowing the scope of the tax exemption to limit it only to new electric distribution systems. The Michigan Renewable Energy Collaborative also expressed interest in ensuring that property associated with wind farms is not included in the exemption.
Given that there are limited sessions day remaining, it is unlikely that this bill will receive a vote in the full Senate before summer recess.
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Michigan Energy Stories
- Integrated resources plans (IRPs) could offer activists a venue to hold Michigan utilities accountable to follow through with advanced energy commitments.
- Groups are asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to reverse a Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) decision to approve DTE Energy’s proposed combined-cycle natural gas plant.
- DTE Energy has until tomorrow, June 7, to file an appeal with the Michigan Tax Tribunal to change its tax valuation for this tax season.
- A $300 million biofuel plant is being planned in the Upper Peninsula.
Michigan Energy Leaders
- The city of Grand Rapids is planning to invest $20 million to convert all of its streetlights to LEDs by 2022.
- Energy-saving efforts are starting to pay off with cost savings for Crystal Mountain resort.
- Ann Arbor’s Green Fair will showcase innovationsin sustainability.
National Energy Stories
- The Trump administration is planning to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union, which could impact advanced manufacturing.
- According to a draft memo, the Department of Energy may order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants as an emergency action to help support coal and nuclear. A group of energy industry associations issued a statement condemning the plan.
- The EPA submitted its proposal to weaken Obama-era fuel efficiency standards. The action is expected to lead to a legal battle with upwards of 15 states.
- Over the course of the last year, energy efficiency policies are one of the few Obama-era climate change strategies the Trump administration hasn’t attempted to repeal.
- According to the Energy Information Administration, the country’s consumption of fossil fuels for electric power is at its lowest level since 1994.
- Companies are still demonstrating significant demand for advanced energy despite the Trump administration’s efforts to backtrack on climate policy.
Michigan Energy Events
Michigan EIBC, Advancing Women in Energy (AWE), and The American Association of Blacks in Energy will cohost an advanced energy networking reception on June 11 from 5-7 pm at CLEAResult offices in Detroit. Register here.
Michigan EIBC’s third EV Convening on DC fast charging and long-dwell charging is scheduled for June 14 at the Michigan Agency for Energy’s office in Lansing. The meeting will featurespeakers including Jeff Mason, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; Wayne Killen, Senior Director of Infrastructure Operations and Bustiness Development for Electrify America; and Robert Jackson, Director of the Michigan Agency for Energy. Register here.
Michigan EIBC member company, Michigan Energy Options, invites you to participate in the June 15 Webinar, “Minimize Financial Risks and Maximize Clean Energy Benefits for Public Sector Institutions?”Click here for more details on the program.
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.
Michigan EIBC’s fourth EV Convening on fleets is scheduled for July 18at the Michigan Agency for Energy’s office in Lansing. Watch your inboxes for registration details.
A program has been released for IPU’s 60th Annual Regulatory Studies Program, including Fundamentals (August 6-10) and Intermediate (August 13-17) Programs.
National Energy Events
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.
You’re invited to present, advertise, exhibit, or sponsor at The Energy Fair, June 15-17 in Custer, Wisconsin. Learn more and register here.
EUCI invites you to the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) Market Dynamics & Trading conference, June 19-20, in Boston, Massachusetts. Register here.
June 22ndin Traverse City Groundworks will host the MI Clean Energy Expo and Conference.
EUCI invites you to the Fundamentals of Distributed Resource (DER) System Planning conference on June 25 – 26in Chicago, Illinois. Register here.
The 2018 Renewable Energy Conference: A Leadership Forum on Energy Policy, June 26in Poughkeepsie, New York, will feature IBM’s Dr. John Kelly. Don’t miss the premier renewable energy conference on the East Coast! Register today!
You’re invited to the Grid Evolution Summit hosted by Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), in Washington, D.C., July 9-12. Register here.
EUCI invites you to the Compensation for Distributed Energy Resources in a Low-Cost Marginal World conference, July 30-31 in Austin, Texas. Register here.
EUCI invites you to the Smart Cities 2018 Conference on August 13-14 in Columbus, Ohio. Register here.
EUCI invites you to the Retooling PURPA conference on August 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia. Register here.
EUCI invites you to the “Land Lease Agreements for Renewable Energy 101” conference on September 13-14, in Austin, Texas. 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
A podcast covers the energy and climate races to watch in the 2018 midterm election.
The EPA has announced the availability of $40 Million in Diesel Emission Reduction Program (DERA) funds. The deadline to apply is June 12. You can apply here.
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.