Newsletter: Senate Energy Committee Takes Up Energy Bills

This newsletter was originally published on July 13, 2015.

Senate Energy Committee Takes Up Energy Bills

State Senators Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) and John Proos (R-St. Joseph) presented their recently introduced energy package to the Senate Energy and Technology Committee on Wednesday. In providing an overview of the legislation, the two Senators offered more insights into their intent, while expressing their view that the legislation is not in its final form.

Senate Bills 437 and 438 would make serious changes to Michigan’s energy policy, and could harm the growth of advanced energy in Michigan. The package would phase out the renewable portfolio and energy optimization standards by 2018, programs that have helped spur billions in investment in Michigan while saving money for ratepayers. Instead, the legislation creates an integrated resource plan (IRP) for electricity providers, and an energy waste reduction plan for natural gas utilities. The legislation would also eliminate net energy metering, which allows for credits to those who generate a portion of their own power, instead requiring owners of distributed generation to sell all the electricity they generate to the utility, and buying all the electricity they use from the power company at a higher rate.

When discussing the elimination of the renewable energy and efficiency mandates, Senator Proos spoke about not wanting to “pick winners and losers” in the energy market. When asked why an efficiency mandate was kept in place for the natural gas utility, it was stated that was because natural gas utilities were not included the IRP process. As for the economics of net-metering, Proos indicated that the new compensation system was made to ensure that people who generate their own energy on site should still “pay for the grid.”

As for changes to the legislation, the Senators allowed members of last year’s work group to offer comments on the legislation. They have stated that a substitute for the legislation will be introduced by the next committee hearing. Michigan EIBC sent comments regarding the legislation. We shall continue to keep you appraised on this and other developments.


Senate Committee Reviews Existing Renewable Energy Tax Credits

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee published reports from a number of bipartisan workgroups that reviewed different categories of tax credits, including those dealing with energy production. This workgroup’s report noted that conventional sources already have incentives permanently in place. One of the priorities they highlighted was to “provide stability to developing industries, by providing certainty to select temporary tax provisions.” Also last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a member of the committee and original author of the renewable production and investment tax credits, expressed his desire to extend both of them and will hope their extensions are included in the eventual tax credit extenders markup.

This week, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced legislation that would create a tax credit for offshore wind within Section 48. The 30% tax credit would be for the first 3000 MW of offshore wind facilities placed into service. Once a company has been awarded the credit, they have five years to install the turbines. Their definition of “offshore” also includes Great Lakes and is not exclusively for coastal areas.


Solar Industry Weighs in on Consumers Energy Proposed Solar Distributed Generation Pilot Program

As part of the Michigan Public Service Commission’s consideration of Consumers Energy’s application for ex parte approval of its proposed solar distributed generation pilot program, a number of Michigan solar businesses – and organizations that represent them – filed comments urging a thoughtful approach to considering the issues involved in the application. Michigan EIBC filed comments on behalf of its member companies, calling for review of the relationship between the utility and solar installation companies, the use of customer data acquired as a result of the utility’s monopoly service territory, the participation of an energy lender owned by Consumers Energy in providing financing to solar customers, and opportunities to improve the interconnection process for solar customers. Other organizations, including The Alliance for Solar Choice, Vote Solar, and the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, also filed comments in the case, as did Michigan EIBC member Solar Winds Power Systems.


Michigan Energy News

Crain’s Detroit Business wrote an article about how the business community is divided on efficiency mandates.

Gongwer reports that House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) would like to see an energy package passed by the end of the year.

Michigan Radio did a segment about the negative changes to distributed generation that harm the economics of net metering.

Midwest Energy News has a piece on the DTE rate case, where they request the ability to charge higher rates for municipalities that use LED’s for street lamps.

Consumers Energy is planning to build a solar garden at Grand Valley State University. GVSU will purchase half of the output from the project, with other Consumers customers able to also purchase renewable energy generated from the project.

The Public Service Commission approved two settlements Thursday resulting in increases for natural gas customers of Michigan Gas Utilities Corporation and electricity customers of Upper Peninsula Power Company. Both are related to reconciling each respective company’s 2014 energy optimization revenues and expenses, as well as to revise surcharges.


National Energy News Inc. hired the U.S. unit of Spanish energy company Iberdrola SA to build and run a 208-megawatt wind farm in North Carolina that the online retailer will use to power its data centers, Bloomberg reports.

The Guardian has a piece on how Denmark powered 140% of its energy with wind power last week. reports on how Facebook is fighting through regulatory red-tape to get more onsite renewable generation.

The triangle business journal has a piece on how the federal government is hoping to see more solar panels on commercial buildings, and looking for solutions.

Huffington Post has a blog entry about the rapid growth rate of electric car usage.

Upcoming Michigan Energy Events
The 2015 Michigan Energy Providers Conference will be held July 29-31 at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The conference is presented by the Michigan Electric and Gas Association.

Michigan EIBC’s next West Michigan Advanced Energy Business Networking Meeting will take place Thursday, July 30 at Varnum in Grand Rapids. Registration and additional details will be available soon. As always, lunch will be provided and the meeting is free for Michigan EIBC Members and $25 for non-members. You can register here.

Michigan EIBC is hosting an Ann Arbor Advanced Energy Business Networking Meeting at Sakti3 on Friday, August 7 from 11am-2pm. Michigan EIBC will give an update on the current state and federal energy policy debate and Sakti3 President and Michigan EIBC Board Member Dr. Ann Marie Sastry will talk about the company’s current work. Lunch will be provided. This meeting is free for Michigan EIBC Members and $25 for non-members. Register here.

The September Michigan Energy Forum meeting will be held Thursday, September 10 from 5-7pm at Ann Arbor SPARK. The theme for the September meeting is “Michigan Solar Industry Update – Policy and Market Trends.”

Upcoming National Energy Events
Solar Power International will be held this year from September 14-17 in Anaheim, California.
Fortune’s ’Brainstorm E: Where Energy, Technology, and Sustainability Meet’ will take place September 28-29 in Austin.  

Additional Resources
Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) is home to PowerSuite, a suite of tools that allows companies a one-stop on-line portal to search, track, and collaborate on state legislation and regulatory proceedings from around the country. PowerSuite includes both BillBoard, the AEE dashboard for managing state legislation, and DocketDash, the AEE dashboard for managing state public utility commission proceedings. Subscription required. is a national solar permitting database that provides information on permitting for solar in jurisdictions across the country. The database includes a variety of information, from average permit turnaround times, to information required to be included in the permit, to contact information for individual jurisdictions. You can browse the requirements for the Michigan cities included in the database here.
The U.S. Department of Energy is offering A Guide to Federal Finance Facilities Available for Energy Efficiency Upgrades and Clean Energy Deployment. The downloadable guide provides information about the various federal financing programs available for energy efficiency and renewable energy — making it easier for state, local and tribal leaders, along with their partners in the private sector, to find capital for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
The Department of Energy has offers free public access to accepted peer-reviewed manuscripts or published scientific journal articles from projects funded by the DOE within 12 months of publication.