- Newsletter (345)
This newsletter was originally published on October 27, 2017.
The Energy Innovators Gala is just two weeks away
The 5th Annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala, hosted by Michigan EIBC to highlight the success and growth of the advanced energy industry in Michigan, is just two weeks away. The event is scheduled for November 9 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing.
In 2017, the advanced energy industry expanded while conquering hurdles around technology improvements, cost, and greater grid integration. Advanced energy companies added Michigan workers three times as fast as the rate of growth in the broader economy, and nationally solar workers account for more than other forms of energy generation combined. In Michigan, expansive energy legislation passed in 2016 created opportunities for businesses to increase manufacturing, to provide energy waste reduction, demand response, and renewable technologies, and to increase purchasing of these cleaner resources, all while meeting these requirements in a cost-effective manner to protect ratepayers, foster innovation, and encourage economic development.
This year, attendees will hear from Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and awards will be presented in the following categories:
- Business of the Year
- Emerging Business of the Year
- Employer of the Year
- Public Official of the Year
Join Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council on November 9th as we celebrate 2017 by awarding leading advanced energy companies for their hard work.
Sponsorship opportunities are available and come with a variety of benefits, including a table at the event and promotion of your company. Gala sponsorship opportunities can be found on the Michigan EIBC website.
We thank our current sponsors:
Michigan EIBC talks advanced energy at Central Michigan University Panel
Michigan EIBC president Liesl Eichler Clark took part in a panel discussion on the advanced energy economy on Tuesday. The discussion encompassed the expansion of renewable energy and how it could benefit taxpayers and reduce electricity costs. The panel included Scott Hawken, director of project development at Apex Clean Energy, and Teresa Hatcher, director of renewable energy, at CMS Energy.
The panelists all emphasized energy efficiency as the first step on the path towards Michigan’s energy future. Clark highlighted the job opportunities investment in advanced energy creates, explaining that clean energy jobs in Michigan increased by 5.3% last year, which is three times higher than the average job growth in other sectors. Hawken addressed wind and solar projects in Michigan and how technology is improving and driving down costs. Tying together the investor owned utility vision for the future, Hatcher laid out the Consumers Energy plan for more modular generation being build closer to load.
The event was moderated by Tom Rohrer, director of Central Michigan University’s Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems.
Committee hearing takes place on Michigan EIBC-backed DER Tax Exemption Bill
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Tax Policy discussed HB 5143 to exempt renewable energy generated for consumption on site from property taxes. This bill, introduced by Representative Barrett, has seen strong support in the advanced energy industry because it would make investment in advanced energy more affordable for consumers, and would remove a reverse carve out tax that only exists for solar.
Michigan EIBC member Mark Hagerty of Michigan Solar Solutions presented with Rep. Barrett (R-Potterville) and Michigan EIBC president Liesl Clark about challenges to the solar industry caused by the taxation of resident rooftop solar in certain jurisdictions. The panel of speakers presented for 10 minutes and then took 40 minutes of questions ranging from the details of assessing to the structure of the bill versus the intent of the sponsor. There was a range of views among the committee members about whether the bill should be narrowly defined to exempt residential customers or broadly to include commercial and industrial energy generation as long as it was only for on-site consumption (as the bill is currently drafted).
The bill saw support from a variety of parties including the Michigan Conservation Energy Forum, the City of Ann Arbor, and the MI LCV. Other groups stayed neutral including Treasury and the Michigan Municipal League. The only opposition at the meeting was from the Michigan Townships Association.
HB 5143 was testimony only in House Tax Policy this week and the sponsor will continue to work with interested parties to improve the language.
We encourage members to reach out with their support and case studies of solar taxation approaches for clients.
Michigan EIBC companies recognized in Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards
The third annual Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards ceremony took place last week in Detroit. This event, which celebrates the success of individuals and businesses who have made great investments in advanced energy, highlighted the work of several Michigan EIBC member companies.
CBS Solar’s customer, Charlevoix-based Friske Orchards, received 1st Place in the agricultural category for a project to improve the company’s seasonal workers’ living conditions. When it came time to renovate the workers’ mobile homes, Friske Orchards chose instead to build entirely new bunkhouses which vastly improved living conditions, and also resulted in significant energy savings. The new, all-electric housing units have ENERGY STAR-certified appliances and lighting, new air-source heat pumps and insulation, and get most of their power from solar panels installed by CBS Solar. Because of these improvements, Friske Orchards expects to save about 44,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
Carla Walker-Miller, President of Walker-Miller Energy Services, was runner-up for the Governor’s Innovator of the Year Award. Walker-Miller is a contractor who helps people increase the efficiency of their homes, as well as an advocate who raises awareness about the energy burdens suffered by marginalized families. Walker-Miller worked in 2016 on behalf of the DTE Home Energy Consultation program, going into 100 homes, installing a variety of energy-saving measures, and prequalifying participants for the repair or replacement of major appliances. At the same time, she helped persuade residents of the value of installing a solar array in an inner-city neighborhood, making it the most energy-efficient residential area in the entire state. In addition, she helped several local residents obtain well-paying jobs in the energy industry.
Michigan EIBC congratulates our members and the other companies recognized for their continued leadership in the advanced energy industry.
Michigan Energy News:
- The MPSC is seeking input on developing pilot programs related to plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) deployment and the infrastructure needed to meet growing user demand by Nov 17th.
- The MPSC approved a certificate of necessity submitted by Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. (UMERC) to build two power generation plants at a total cost of $277,200,000.
- Michigan won a key decision in a case before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding past charges related to PIPP. FERC cut by nearly 50 percent the amount of money ratepayers have to make in system support resource (SSR) payments. FERC found that more than $23 million of charges by the utility were not just or reasonable.
- The Michigan Agency for Energy and Department of Health and Human Services announced 2017-18 MEAP grant awards to help low-income residents pay energy bills.
- The Public Service Commission is considering a case to reduce payments from utilities to independent renewable energy producers (LOOK UP AND UPDATE).
- The Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity (ABATE) is taking the MPSC to court over a local clearing requirement.
- According to an official with DTE Energy, prices for natural gas and renewable energy means there is no economic basis for utilities to invest in coal and nuclear generation.
- A ruling from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to provide savings to U.P. utility customers of up to a $24 million for costs they’ve paid to continue operating an aging coal plant.
- In Kent County, lower energy payments could result in increased trash pick-up costs.
- A ballot measure could add $1 million to Ann Arbor’s climate action plan.
- Industry leaders, including a DTE representative, say coal-fired power plants are becoming obsolete.
- Weatherization benefits families, workers, and communities.
- Transparent solar materials that can be applied to windows are a massive untapped opportunity for solar energy.
- The village of Sebewaing installed solar power to operate the village’s gigabit Internet service.
- The Quincy Village Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday night for the permitting of solar energy facilities in the village.
- The city manager of Lapeer shares insights into solar farm operation.
- Officials in Ann Arbor want more public feedback on whether solar panels should be allowed in front yards.
- Michigan EIBC member company CBS Solar installed a new 8 KW Solar Array on the roof of a doctor’s office in Traverse City.
- How a small winery in Leelanau county used the Farm Bill REAP program to finance an investment in solar.
- Major producer of polysilicon, Michigan EIBC member company Hemlock Semiconductor, will lay off 100 workers.
- DTE Energy is acquiring easements in Lapeer county to evaluate potential wind energy sites.
- Michigan EIBC member company Generate Capital, the company that is redeveloping a waste-to-energy facility in Fremont, has raised $200 million in equity to finance more small clean energy projects.
- The developer of a natural gas pipeline through Ohio and Michigan says it is willing to work with state officials after contaminated groundwater near the project may have moved into wetlands in southeast Michigan.
- A UP utility says it could save more than $100 million over 20 years by taking a coal-fired steam plant offline.
- How data can drive sustainability.
- Ford has selected two Colorado companies to provide it with electric vehicle motors and other components.
- Ford will triple the number of workplace EV charging stations it offers.
News from Washington:
- Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Marco Rubio of Florida introduced a bill to fast-track applications to export small-scale volumes of liquefied natural gas “without modification or delay.”
- Some Republican lawmakers are considering ways to expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Arctic and Atlantic oceans using congressional budget rules.
- Senate Democrats failed to pass an amendment to block oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.
- The Department of Energy is facing opposition for introducing a proposal to prop up coal and nuclear plants. Comments are pouring into FERC on the Energy Department’s proposal to prop up coal and nuclear plants, with former FERC commissioners and environmental law groups blasting the measure and coal state lawmakers voicing support. FERC commissioners are divided over the proposal. Eight former federal energy regulators sign a letter calling the Department of Energy’s plan to prop up coal and nuclear plants “a significant step backward,” saying it would raise prices and disrupt electricity markets, and a report by the Brattle Group says it would ultimately disadvantage the sector because it wouldn’t curtail competition from natural gas. Grid operators around the country say the proposal is expensive, inefficient and counterproductive. A coalition of 20 trade groups representing the natural gas, wind and solar sectors have also aligned in opposition to the plan. Supporters of an Energy Department plan to prop up coal and nuclear plants are justifying the rule by using a broad interpretation of the Federal Power Act.
- In a letter, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt assured key Republican senators that he would keep the Renewable Fuel Standard intact, and that next year’s requirements for blending renewable fuel would be set at or above the proposed amounts. He also committed to not pursuing an idea that would allow exported ethanol to be counted toward the annual goals.
- The EPA has removed links from its website to materials that would help local officials adapt to a changing climate and canceled talks on climate change by three agency scientists.
- The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are warning that hackers are targeting energy companies and industrial firms as well as governmental entities.
- FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee laid out his priorities for the agency, including pipeline approvals, cyber security and grid reliability.
- The Trump administration is hoping to increase natural gas exports to Asia, which would benefit export terminals being developed along the coasts of Texas and.
Cities & Communities leading in Advanced Energy:
- These communities have purchased 100% renewable energy.
Grid & Efficiency News:
- According to a survey, less than one-third of utility customers participate in energy management programs.
- AEP is partnering with a software company to build an energy storage system at two hydroelectric plants in Virginia.
- Five years after Superstorm Sandy, Northeastern states are still working to build more resilient power grids.
- An sizeable investment in manufacturing infrastructure for lithium-ion batteries is making it hard to pursue alternative battery technology based on lower-cost ingredients.
- The PJM Interconnection approved $1 billion in electric transmission projects.
- According to an official, the Puerto Rican government is prepared to argue that FEMA funding should be used to build a new, more resilient, power system instead of just repairing the old one. In the meantime, Puerto Rico is getting support from the continental U.S., with Florida-based APR Energy sending two giant gas-powered generators to the island, and Tesla helping to restore power to a hospital by pairing solar panels with its Powerwall batteries. A small Montana company, Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC won a $300 million contract, the largest issued so far in the Hurricane Maria relief effort, to restore power to the island by helping to replace or repair electrical infrastructure. Members of Congress have launched an investigation into the contract because Whitefish Energy Holdings is located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown.
Solar Energy News:
- Installers are urging homeowners to buy their solar systems as soon as possible to avoid price hikes caused by potential tariffs next year.
- A solar co-op innovator is expanding, with a goal of establishing operations in all 50 states by the end of 2018 while also empowering homeowners.
- Concentrated solar power is driving the development of molten salt energy storage.
- A SEIA official discusses the emerging solar markets in states like Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio.
- Plans move forward for a major solar project in southern Indiana that would be built across 800 acres of farmland.
- A state-subsidized solar panel maker in Mississippi is closing due to “intense, non-market competition from foreign solar panel manufacturers.”
- Florida’s JEA utility is dismantling its net-metering policy and launching a program to acquire an additional 250 MW of utility-scale solar and offering subsidies for battery installation.
- So far, a Minnesota school district’s involvement in Xcel Energy’s solar rebate program has been filled with uncertainty and unexpected changes.
- Cities in Nebraska and Ohio are among a growing number to approve “plug and play” solar devices that make it easier and less costly to install solar panels at homes.
- The CEO of First Solar wants to help solve the “duck curve” problem in California by having utilities pay solar farms to stop generation when the grid doesn’t need it.
- A renewable energy developer is spending nearly $1 billion on solar farms in Oregon.
- Xcel Energy unveils a new solar project at an abandoned landfill in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
- Interest in community solar projects is growing throughout Cook County, Illinois.
Wind Energy News:
- A combination of design improvements and lower costs for wind turbines is driving interest in areas with the weaker winds.
- Amazon‘s largest wind farm is up and running in Texas, with an expected output of over 1 million MWh annually.
- A Maryland coastal town hired a lobbyist to push a pair of offshore wind projects further from view.
- A wind energy project in central Illinois that’s been in the works for at least a decade is moving forward with hopes of operating in two years.
- A stalled wind project in northeast Nebraska will be resurrected and expanded following Facebook’s announcement that it would buy energy from the farm.
- An offshore wind company will conduct turbine testing at a facility at Clemson University in South Carolina.
- Wind farm developers are eyeing a potentially lucrative market for offshore wind in New Jersey after receiving pledges of support from the leading candidates to replace Gov. Chris Christie, who did not fully implement a program to subsidize the projects.
- A South Dakota county is looking to use a 30% ethanol blend in its vehicle fleet to save money on fuel.
- Construction is scheduled to begin next year on an 8 MW biomass plant in Nebraska.
- Sheetz convenience stores added 340 biofuel-capable fuel pumps at 77 locations in Pennsylvania with the help of a $7 million federal grant.
- A British biofuel company is planning to build a refinery in Mississippi that would turn wood into the equivalent of diesel or jet fuel.
Fossil Fuel & Nuclear Energy News:
- Florida Power & Light filed a petition to build a new gas-fired power unit. The utility said it would be almost $1.3 billion cheaper than using solar power.
- The National Congress of American Indians voted in favor of a resolution to ban oil and gas drilling in parts of northwestern New Mexico.
- The Interior Department is planning the largest-ever sale of oil and gas leases held in the U.S., totaling nearly 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.
- A Pennsylvania town that depends economically on a nearby coal-fired power plant is still struggling economically despite federal efforts to reverse a so-called “war on coal.”
- South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster wrote a letter to SCANA Corp.’s CEO, urging the company to stop charging ratepayers millions every month for the abandoned Summer nuclear project.
- Missouri’s sole nuclear plant will be offline for 60 days while undergoing nearly $130 million in repairs.
Technology & Market News:
- The energy industry is on the cusp of disruption, according to a new report.
- Lackluster margins and slow growth at Halliburton have driven down the company’s shares.
Advanced Lighting News:
- How innovative LED package technology enables new solid-state lighting designs.
- The LED lighting module market is poised to triple in five years.
- NRL clarified the valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies.
Vehicle & Mobility News:
- The Department of Energy announced $15 million for research projects on batteries and electric vehicle technology that enable extreme fast charging of 15 minutes or less.
- Tesla reached an agreement to build an electric vehicle factory in Shanghai.
- Alphabet’s Capital G invested $1 billion in Lyft.
- Volkswagen’s failure to secure long-term cobalt supplies for its electric vehicle batteries raises the question of whether companies will be able to access the material quickly enough.
- EU antitrust investigators inspected Volkswagen and Daimler as part of a widening probe into whether German carmakers have been colluding on technology.
- A St. Louis suburb is launching a free electric cab pilot program for downtown visitors.
- Minneapolis city council members express interest in replacing the city’s fleet with electric vehicles as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- A clean-fuels collaborative says more recharging stations could lead to thousands more hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on the road in central Ohio.
Michigan Energy Events:
The Michigan Agency for Energy’s Energy Services Coalition’s 2017 Leadership in Energy Efficiency Awards is scheduled for November 1 in Lansing. Representative Beth Griffin will be the Keynote Speaker and will highlight new legislation regarding energy project financing. Attendees will also hear from the award recipients about their Energy Savings Performance Contract experience, and lunch will be provided. Register here.
Generate Capital invites you to a tour of the Fremont Regional Digester on November 8 to see how they turn organic waste into energy. The digester can accommodate all types of waste streams and provide complete organic waste management services. To sign up for this event, visit the website here by November 6.
The 5th Annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala will take place on Thursday, November 9 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing. This annual gala recognizes those businesses and policymakers who have done the most to grow the Michigan advanced energy industry. Tickets are on sale now, with sponsorships also available. Learn more here.
National Energy Events:
Free CEE Technology Forum, November 7 at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. See how tech piloting, program design, and partnerships will define our next era of energy efficiency. Speakers from Nest, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, EPRI, Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association, Xcel Energy, and Northwest Power & Conservation Council.
The 2017 U.S. Power and Renewables Summit will take place in Austin on November 7-8. The conference, hosted by Greentech Media, provides an in-depth look at how solar, wind, and related renewable energy technologies are impacting power markeys, and how this interaction is raising key questions and challenges for the industry moving forward.
EUCI invites you to the Electric Vehicle-Utility Industry Nexus, December 11-12, 2017 in Anaheim, California. Register here.
The U.S. Energy Storage Summit 2017 is taking place December 12-13 in San Francisco. Now in its third year, this event brings together utilities, financiers, regulators, technology innovators, and storage practitioners for two full days of data-intensive presentations, analyst-led panel sessions with industry leaders, and extensive, high-level networking.
Registration is now open for the 2017 Veteran’s Energy Seminar on December 14 in Chicago. This one-day training for military veterans and reservists will include classroom sessions and panels on global energy security challenges. Learn more and register to attend by clicking here.
Mark your calendar for the 5th National Conference on Next Generation Demand Response on February 7-8, in San Diego, California. For more information, and to register, visit the event website here.
A website from the Michigan Public Service Commission provides details on updates to state energy laws. For more information, or to sign up for notifications, visit www.michigan.gov/energylegislation.
World Resources Institute recently published an Implementation Guide for Utilities, outlining best practices in designing renewable energy projects to meet large energy customers’ needs.
The Energy Department’s Solar Energies Technology Office will award $62 million in grants for early-stage research into concentrated solar power.