This solar newsletter was originally published on May 18, 2018.
Michigan EIBC Testifies on Energy Freedom Bill Package
On May 1, State Representatives Gary Glenn (R-Williams Township), Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), and Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) introduced the 5-bill Energy Freedom package (House Bills 5861, 5862, 5863, 5864 and 5865).
Representative Gary Glenn’s HB 5861 paves the way for community renewable energy gardens, giving residential, commercial and industrial customers who cannot install solar panels or wind turbines on their property the option to subscribe to their local renewable energy garden and receive a monthly credit on their electric bills for energy produced.
Representative Yousef Rabhi sponsored HB 5863, which would implement fair value pricing for small customers’ renewable energy systems (up to 500 KW). It would authorize the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to establish a distributed generation (DG) value methodology to set the fair value price for small systems to ensure that both the customer and the utility are compensated fairly, considering the following criteria:
- the value of the renewable energy,
- its delivery,
- its generation capacity,
- its transmission capacity,
- its transmission and distribution line losses, and
- its environmental value.
Under this legislation, the generating customer would enter into a contract with the utility and receive this rate as a bill credit for an agreed-upon period of time.
HB 5862, introduced by Representative Scott Dianda, would extend fair value pricing in HB 5863 to large customers (over 500 KW). Under this legislation, the MPSC would establish a distributed generation (DG) value methodology to set the fair value price for large systems to ensure that both the customer and the utility are compensated fairly. The methodology used to determine the fair value price would consider the same criteria as HB 5863; however, unlike HB 5863, utilities would have the option to decline net metering for large systems if there is a fair value price or standard offer contract available.
HB 5864, sponsored by Representative Tom Barrett, aims to improve net metering by lifting the arbitrary cap set in the statute for the number of electrical customers in Michigan eligible to generate renewable energy on their property and offset their electric costs. Energy producers would be compensated with a credit on their electric bills.
Finally, HB 5865, introduced by Representative Steve Johnson, defines critical facilities and allow them to generate and use their own electricity by developing microgrids. The legislation would set up protocols for microgrids to switch off of the main grid and operate in “island mode” during outages. It intends to both help improve reliability during adverse weather conditions and provide an opportunity to study whether it is in the public interest to broadly authorize microgrids.
On Tuesday, May 15, the House Energy Committee held a hearing on the bill package. Michigan EIBC President Liesl Clark, and board member Mark Hagerty of Michigan Solar Solutions testified in support of the legislation, arguing that numerous studies have found that net metering users are not subsidized, and that in fact they subsidize other electric customers by generating energy during the hottest part of the day when demand is highest at a lower cost. Clark presented research conducted by the Institute for Energy Innovation in support of their testimony.
Hagerty gave an example, explaining that with rooftop solar panels, the power he sent to the grid during the day is worth 300% more than the power bought from the grid at night.
Together, this legislation can help reduce energy costs for customers and give customers the freedom to generate their own advanced energy. It can also help to create jobs in the growing advanced energy industry, which currently employs more than 92,200 people in the state of Michigan across a variety of advanced energy sectors, and drive economic development at the community level. Another hearing is scheduled on the Energy Freedom package for Tuesday May 22.
Panel Shines Light on Residential Solar at Solar 101 Event
On Wednesday, May 16, Michigan EIBC participated in a solar 101 event in Charlotte, Michigan. The event, attended by approximately 40 farmers and community members, featured as speakers Michigan EIBC president Liesl Clark – who brought the Institute for Energy Innovation’s “Solar Energy in Michigan” report on the benefits of net metering to hand out to attendees – as well as Dean Berden, owner of DB Solar, Jared Foster of Native Connections, Ed Rivet of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, and local farmer and solar customer Gary Haynes. The panelists drew on their own experiences to highlight the benefits of residential rooftop solar, net metering, and net-zero or off-grid systems.
Clark moderated the discussion and posed questions to the panelists, emphasizing that solar works in Michigan, even up north – in fact, UP residents have already hit the statutorily-imposed net metering cap. Foster explained how solar and agriculture can coexist, pointing out that certain crops can grow under solar panels, and that soil health improves over the duration a ground-mount solar array is in place.
The panel highlighted the differences between net metering systems – in which customers draw some of their energy from the grid and some from their solar installations, and in which customers send their excess solar energy back to the grid for a credit on their electric bills – and off-grid systems, in which customers are completely disconnected from the utility-provided electric grid and rely only on the electricity from their solar installations. Regarding off-grid systems, Clark and Berden discussed the need for a quality energy storage system, and the benefits of solar-plus storage. Regarding the potential impact net metering customers will have on their neighbors, Rivet drew on personal experience: he said his neighbors are unaware that he has solar panels on his property, but, he pointed out, they still reap the benefits, because when his panels generate more energy than he needs, it goes back onto his grid, and supplies power to his neighbors.
Rivet also gave insight into how financing for a residential solar installation might look. Drawing from his personal experience, Rivet explained that he got a 30% tax credit on his system, which helps offset the loan he took out, and his electric bill has also decreased as a result. He explained that, by the time his children move out and his household’s electricity demand decreases as a result, he expects to pay nothing on his electric bill and rely solely on his solar panels for his energy. Rivet added that if solar customers can get a REAP (Rural Energy Assistance Program) grant, that will help decrease the up-front cost even further. Either way, though, he said, the investment is worthwhile: “It turns sunlight into money.”
- Michigan solar advocates are calling for a change in state law that would make solar installations exempt from property taxes.
- The solar industry raises concerns about the Michigan Public Service Commission’s decision on net metering.
- The CEO of Michigan EIBC member company Sunrun says the country should invest more in distributed energy versus utility-scale solar projects.
- DTE Energy held a public Solar Celebration on May 12.
- Mott Community College is partnering with Michigan EIBC member company Cypress Creek Renewables to advance solar job training.
- In Allegan county, the first solar panels for the solar project at Martin Public Schools have been installed.
- Harris Energy Group, a company based in the western Upper Peninsula looks to branch out from hydroelectric projects to develop wind and solar.
- Environmental teams from Glen Lake High School and Traverse City Central are installing solar arrays on their schools.
- House lawmakers introduced a bill to repeal the 30% tariff on imported solar products and reimburse companies that have been affected. At the same time, solar manufacturer Suniva, the company that successfully petitioned the Trump administration for tariffs on import solar panels, is auctioning its assets.
- The Trump administration wants to undo an Obama-era plan that solar and wind development in certain parts of a California desert.
- First-term Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi created a Solar Caucus to promote the industry.
Across the Country
- The Energy Information Administration estimates that more than 4 GW of solar will come online in 2018.
- A new report says that commercial solar may be 78% third-party owned by 2021, compared to 53% today.
- With net metering no longer tenable in many states, policymakers are working on new rate designs to promote solar-plus-storage growth.
- Corporations are embracing on-site solar and storage for the economic and social benefits.
- The U.S. Postal Service will install solar arrays at facilities in New Jersey, California and Massachusetts.
- A survey finds that solar companies want software to solve industry-specific challenges like understanding utility rates.
- The California Energy Commission voted unanimously to require solar panels on all new homes starting in 2020. The mandate is expected to boost solar sales 14% over 4 years.
- New England’s grid operator says behind-the-meter solar installations will be the primary factor decreasing energy demand over the next ten years.
- Officials debuted the largest solar farm in South Carolina, which will power 20,000 residential and commercial customers.
- A Wisconsin company launches technology that allows developers or property managers to store and share onsite solar generation between units.
- A grant program will issue $145,000 to 15 Wisconsin nonprofits to help pay for solar installations.
- A nonprofit will study potential connections between distributed solar and EV charging stations.
- San Francisco and City University of New York are working on best practices for using solar-plus-storage to boost resiliency.
- One of Tesla’s first solar roof customers praises the new system.
- Michigan EIBC member company Sunrun announces plans to lease rooftop solar arrays to Florida homeowners if state regulators decide not to regulate it as a public utility.
- Indiana State University launches a solar-powered bike-sharing program.
Events to Watch:
You’re invited to the U.P. Energy Summit on May 23 at Northern Michigan University. 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.
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.