Newsletter: Solar 101 Brings Legislature, Staff to Table to Discuss Solar Energy

This newsletter was originally published on February 7, 2018.

Michigan EIBC and IEI host Solar 101

On Tuesday, February 6, the Institute for Energy Innovation (IEI) and Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (Michigan EIBC) hosted an educational “lunch and learn” event focused on solar energy (“Solar 101”) for legislators, legislative staff, and Michigan EIBC member companies. Liesl Eichler Clark, president of IEI and Michigan EIBC, served as the moderator of the panel with Michigan EIBC member companies Hemlock Semiconductor (represented by Phil Rausch), Cypress Creek Renewables (represented by Kevin Borgia), and The Green Panel (represented by Mark Cryderman) rounding out the panel.

Clark kicked off the panel discussion with an overview of energy markets and the recent significant cost declines in wind and solar energy. Clark explained that until recently, increases in GDP in the U.S. were associated with complementary increases in energy demand. In other words, as the economy expanded and GDP increased, Americans used more energy. Recently, however, primarily due to increased energy efficiency, GDP has become decoupled from energy demand – although the U.S. GDP is increasing, energy demand is flat or declining. Along with declining demand, the costs for renewable energy have been dropping rapidly over the last decade. Low, stable costs are creating increased demand for renewable energy among corporations. For example, Michigan EIBC member company Switch operates a data center in southwest Michigan with a goal of 100% renewable energy through Consumers Energy’s green power tariff.

After Clark’s introductory comments, the panelists spoke about their work in Michigan and answered questions from the audience. Phil Rausch of Michigan EIBC member company Hemlock Semiconductor – a supplier of nearly 10% of the world’s polycrystalline silicon used in solar panels – explained that the industry has been “booming” since 2010. Rausch boasted that the industry had seen an average growth of 10-12% per year since 2010, well above inflation.

Kevin Borgia of Michigan EIBC member company Cypress Creek Renewables – a large utility-scale installer– explained that Michigan is a prime market for increased large-scale solar investment, due in part to the passage and implementation of the 2016 energy legislation (PA 341 and PA 342). Borgia explained that Cypress Creek leases land from farmers, installs solar panels on site, and sells that energy to utilities and corporate purchasers. In these deals, the farmer not only makes money on the lease, but the planting of low-level cover crops improves soil health.

The final panelist was Mark Cryderman of The Green Panel, a Michigan EIBC member company that installs small-scale residential solar panels. Cryderman explained that solar is a “disruptive technology,” meaning that the cost of installation has dropped so drastically that the energy industry is fundamentally changing. Cryderman expressed that the benefits of solar installation extend beyond the payback customers receive. Solar provides more stable, fixed energy costs over time, acting as a hedge against inflation. Cryderman explained that the initial residential installation in Michigan typically costs between $2.50-3.00/watt. Under the current net energy metering system, these costs can be recouped by homeowners over a period of about 8 to 8.5 years.


Renewable energy and energy efficiency will fuel Smart Neighborhood

A new “smart neighborhood” is being planned for Highland Park, Michigan, centered at the site of an abandoned elementary school. The Thompson Elementary School building has been vacant for 20 years, and it will now become the community center for Parker Village, a neighborhood of energy efficient, net-zero homes.

The developer plans for the homes to incorporate renewable energy resources and energy-saving technologies such as motion-sensing street lights. The neighborhood will also feature electric vehicle charging stations and aquaponic gardens.

The community will be one of the first smart neighborhoods in the country.


NextEra CEO Predicts Renewables will be Cheaper than Coal and Nuclear

Jim Robo, the CEO of NextEra Energy predicted on a Q4 earnings conference call on January 26 with investors that it would be cheaper to use new renewables than continue running existing coal and nuclear plants by the early 2020s.

Robo anticipates unsubsidized new wind costing $0.020-0.025/kWh and new solar costing $0.03-0.04/kWh “early in the next decade,” as compared to the $0.035-0.050/kWh it will cost to operate an existing coal or nuclear plant.

Robo bases these predictions on the consistent decline in the cost in renewables over time.

NextEra Energy, a Michigan EIBC member company, claims to be “the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun.”


New Members

Turning Point Energy, LLC is a clean energy advisory, development and investment company headquartered in Denver, Colorado with team members and additional offices in Washington D.C., Maryland, California, Florida, Arizona, and Hawaii. The company has been in business for four years with upwards of 15 team members working on key projects throughout the U.S. Its principals started the company after spending most of the last decade leading, running, growing and executing for some of the largest solar companies in the energy industry. It is comprised of a veteran energy industry team with more than 1,000 MW of solar projects originated, developed, financed, built and operating throughout the U.S. today.


Michigan Policy, Regulation & Utilities

  • Governor Rick Snyder was nominated by the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council for a Leadership award from the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance as recognition of his efforts to reduce energy waste in Michigan. Governor Snyder will be presented with the award on Thursday.
  • Governor Snyder rejected recommendations from a pipeline safety advisory board to temporarily shut down the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.
  • Senator Dale Zorn introduced SB 647, to extend Michigan’s Home Heating Credit and funding for weatherization assistance until Fiscal Year 2021-2022.  
  • The Michigan Agency for Energy and Michigan Public Service Commission announced the release of their newest consumer Tip, Personal Property Tax Exemption for Solar Panels, which clarifies that property owners across Michigan can take advantage of an existing tax exemption for small-scale solar projects. 
  • Michigan EIBC member company, solar developer Cypress Creek Renewables is attempting to block Consumers Energy’s effort to halt its energy purchases under PURPA for the next 10 years.
  • Michigan regulators’ decision to replace an aging coal plant with gas units was a setback for Upper Peninsula clean energy groups, but advocates still see opportunities to expand solar energy and energy efficiency.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists says DTE customers could save $340 million with if the utility went with renewable energy instead of a proposed gas plant.

Michigan Energy Leaders

  • Dearborn residents celebrate as CMS Enterprises halts plans to expand a controversial natural gas power plant.
  • On January 23, The Luella Hannan Foundation initiated Lean & Green Michigan’s first PACE project of 2018, and the first nonprofit PACE project ever for the Michigan EIBC member.
  • Groups in the Upper Peninsula see a bigger role for solar energy and energy efficiency.


National Energy Stories

National Energy Leaders

  • T-Mobile pledged to use only renewable electricity for its operations by 2021, with CEO John Legere saying the move will reduce the company’s energy costs by around $100 million in the next 15 years.
  • BP is once again investing in renewables.
  • A $5.6 billion public-private partnership in Rochester, Minnesota, aspires to be a “model of sustainability” that will push the city toward its goal of being energy net zero by 2031.
  • Tesla will collaborate with Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo and UPS to build on-site charging terminals for its new electric truck.


Michigan Energy Events 

Wind Works Michigan is hosting a webinar to describe the Wind Energy Stakeholders Committee report on Wednesday, February 14, from 2:00-3:00pm. The speakers will describe the report, detailing lessons learned from years of experience working on wind development in Michigan. The report is designed to provide valuable information for anyone involved in future wind energy projects, including local communities. You can register here. 

Advancing Women in Energy (AWE) invites you to a reception and conversation with Katherine Hamilton, Chair of 38 North Solutions and Energy Gang Member. The reception is Thursday, February 15, from 1pm-3pm in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Become a member and register here.

Michigan EIBC will host a Michigan Energy Forum on solar at member company Varnum’s Grand Rapids office on March 5. Stay tuned for registration details!

Michigan EIBC’s 6th Annual Member Meeting is scheduled for April 30 in Lansing, followed by a Lobby Day on May 1. Mark your calendars!

Michigan EIBC will host a Michigan Energy Forum on energy efficiency and lighting on June 11 at member company CLEAResult’s office in Detroit. Stay tuned for details!


National Energy Events 

Mark your calendar for the 5th National Conference on Next Generation Demand Response on February 7-8, in San Diego, California. Learn more and register here.

Join MEEA and 650 energy efficiency innovators at the 2018 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 7-9 in Chicago, Illinois.

With more than 650 attendees, MES is the region’s largest energy efficiency event and an unparalleled networking opportunity. February 7-9, MEEA will be holding their annual 2018 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference at the Chicago Hilton & Towers. MES is about celebrating accomplishments in energy efficiency, as well as laying out the efficiency program and policy landscape for the coming year. Register here.

EUCI invites you to the Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Utility Solar Rates Summit March 1-2 in Nashville, TN. The summit will explore common NEM rate structures and many alternatives under consideration and examine the array of options that utilities and regulatory commissions are looking to as a means for striking the necessary balance between promoting the advancement of solar policy and development, facilitating appropriate rate recovery, ensuring grid reliability and enabling consumer choice. Register here. Members, check out your inboxes for an exclusive member-only discount! 

EUCI invites you to its Renewable Energy 101 Forum, March 12-13, in Portland, Oregon. Learn more and register here.

On March 13-15, energy innovators from across industry, government, and academia will gather at the Gaylord National Convention Center right outside Washington, DC for a three-day program showcasing transformational energy technologies. The 2018 Summit agenda has been posted online! ARPA-E has assembled 20+ panel discussions (including topics on defense, bioenergy, and grid technologies), networking receptions, and technology demonstrations. (Please note the agenda is subject to change). Register TODAY 

EUCI is hosting two courses on smart metering: Smart Metering 101 and Advanced Smart Meeting courses on March 19 and March 20, respectively.

EUCI invites you to the Utility-Scale Solar Power Plant Fundamentals conference on April 18 – 19 in Portland, Oregon. Register here.

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. This three-day conference will cover all aspects of the implementation of energy storage technologies as a key enabler of grid modernization, addressing the electric grid’s most pressing needs by improving its stability and resiliency. Investment in energy storage is essential for keeping pace with the soaring demand for electricity. 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.


Announcements and Opportunities

The Michigan Battle of the Buildings is April 18. Join the awards and recognition program for energy use reduction today! The competition is open to all Michigan area commercial, industrial, non-profit, educational institutions & multi-family buildings. Any building type except single family residential. Registration ends March 31.

Nominations are now being accepted for the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards to honor Michigan organizations and individuals for their commitment to responsible energy production and consumption. The Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards celebrate outstanding achievements by recognizing people and organizations that have taken firm, meaningful actions to stop energy waste. Last year, energy solutions honored at the awards ranged from installing energy-efficient, state-of-the-art heating, cooling and lighting systems to common-sense, lower-cost steps like caulking windows and adding insulation. Nominations can be submitted online at through March 31 with winners to be announced at a celebration in the fall.  

The Michigan Agency for Energy announced a $400 discount for public building operators who attend building operator certification classes this year in Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Lansing or Detroit. Register here for a Level 1 class and here for a Level 2 class.