Newsletter: Wrapping up 2017

This newsletter was originally published on January 10, 2018.

Double Digit growth in Solar Installations in 2016

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) released its Net Metering and Solar Program Report last month, which found a rise in solar projects in 2016, and projected a further rise in 2017. However, pending state and federal policy and regulations could hamper growth in 2018.

There is still plenty of room for growth under the current legislatively set caps, based on the 2016 data. Of Michigan’s two largest electric utilities, Consumers Energy has 33MW of space left or 90% and DTE Energy has 471 MW or 82% left.

According to the report, the total number of residential, commercial and industrial customers participating in Michigan’s net metering program grew from 2,155 to 2,582, and the total capacity of net metering installations grew 28% in 2016. The report further projected that, by the end of 2017, the total amount of solar installed in Michigan would reach 120,530 KW, more than double the nearly 58,000 KW in 2016 and 36,000 KW in 2015. The UPPCO utility in the Upper Peninsula continues to be the only jurisdiction where the net metering cap – set in statute – has been hit.

The December 2016 energy legislation transitions Michigan from the existing Net Metering structure to a new Distributed Generation (DG) tariff. The DG tariff design is under discussion at an MPSC staff stakeholder workgroup and will then be adopted in some form by the MPSC and included in future rate cases. Net Metering customers signed up into the program prior to the new tariff being adopted will be grandfathered in for 10 years.

The Michigan Public Service Commission staff issued a draft report on the proposed distributed generation tariff and asked for comments by Jan. 10.

The transition from a simple and well-understood structure like net metering to the distributed generation tariff will likely have a large impact on the solar deployments in Michigan in 2018. Future solar growth depends on how high the Commission sets the tariff and whether utilities and customers are compensated fairly.

Michigan EIBC president Liesl Eichler Clark told Crain’s , “the process will play out in early 2018 culminating in the utilities adopting the new MPSC determined distributed generation tariff in their next rate cases. Once the tariff is in place, it will be even more clear that there is no need for caps on the residential solar program.”


Governor Rick Snyder Signs Michigan EIBC-backed SB 375

On December 28, Governor Rick Snyder signed SB 375 into law. The bill was championed by Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart) and backed by Michigan EIBC after member companies brought the shortcomings of the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act (2010 PA 270) to light. The new PA 242 of 2017 adds “anaerobic digester” as an option for energy projects that can be financed through PACE by the legislation.

Anaerobic digesters collect agricultural waste, such as manure, food processing waste, and waste from other sources, and convert the energy stored in the waste’s organic matter into methane. The methane is then used to produce either gas or electricity.

Michigan EIBC is excited to see this bill become law, and we look forward to the PACE projects we expect will come from it.


Brader Moves to Private Sector

The Michigan Agency for Energy Executive Director Valerie Brader is stepping away from her role leading Governor Snyder’s energy initiatives and moving to the private sector as of Feb 10th. Brader had been serving as energy advisor, agency director and co-chair of the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) overseeing the Line 5 issue. Brader will be joining Rivenoak Law in March heading a new consulting company.

“It’s been an honor to serve the citizens of Michigan and Gov. Rick Snyder,” Brader said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work the Agency for Energy has done with so many of our partners toward a more reliable and affordable energy future for Michigan. Together, we passed energy legislation that will be a national model, were recognized nationally for our leadership in energy infrastructure and security issues, ensured that the Upper Peninsula could have a bright energy future that they could control, re-invented our grant-making programs in response to feedback from stakeholders, and helped thousands of customers with their utility issues.”

Michigan EIBC president Liesl Eichler Clark, “Valerie Brader played a pivotal role in the development of Michigan’s historic, bipartisan energy law that expands clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and we greatly appreciate her service and leadership,” Clark said. “We look forward to working with Ms. Anderson in her new role as director of MAE to keep Michigan on the cutting edge of the growing advanced energy sector.”

According to MAE, Brader will step down Feb. 10, and current deputy director Madhu Anderson will take her place as acting director. There will also be reorganizing of MAE and MPSC.


Renewing Members

Harvest Energy Solutions is a full-service distributor, engineer and installer of renewable and energy saving products, specializing in rural residential, agricultural and commercial energy solutions throughout the Midwest. From product selection and site assessment to on-site installation and follow-up maintenance, the company partners with its customers throughout the entire process. Since 2006, Harvest Energy’s goal has been to assist farmers and ranchers, businesses and home owners, in becoming more sustainable, efficient and independent with renewable energy. Our staff includes NABCEP certified installers and NABCEP certified PV technical sales professionals. Other products include HVLS fans, solar water pumps, agricultural LED lighting, off-grid solar systems, solar charging tables, and other lifestyle products.

McNaughton-McKay Electric Company is a leading distributor of electrical products for the industrial, automation, commercial, and construction markets. We opened in 1910 and are headquartered in Madison Heights, Michigan with 22 additional locations in 5 States and Germany. Each of our branch locations are committed to ensuring your needs are being met and we truly understand your business and industry goals. Use the links to view details and obtain directions to our branch office near you.

Progressive AE has active work in all 48 contiguous states, a team of 200 professionals and more than 65 years combined history as leaders in architecture, engineering, and design in assisting community, healthcare, housing, industrial, learning, retail, senior living, workplace, and worship clients. Progressive AE and its affiliates operate as a corporation registered in Michigan and other states, while architects and engineers are registered in 48 states.


Michigan Policy, Regulation & Utilities

  • The Michigan Agency for Energy and Michigan Public Service Commission earned an EPA ENERGY STAR certification award for 2017.
  • In a Midwest Energy News Q&A, Michigan energy director Valerie Brader says Line 5 shutdown is ‘still very much on the table.’
  • Court of Appeals oks Consumers Energy’s rate hike and smart meter plans.
  • The Michigan Public Service Commission issued an order in December requiring utilities to disclose savings under the new federal tax cuts and demonstrate how those savings will be passed along to consumers through lower electric and gas bills. Utilities have until January 19 to file comments with the state on how they propose to return savings to customers. The order has been appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals by Energy Michigan Inc. and the Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equality (ABATE), on the argument that the MPSC lacks regulatory authority under Public Act 341 of 2016 to impose a “local clearing requirement” on the 10 or so individual alternative electric suppliers in Michigan, according to the Dec. 8 appeal.
  • The Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) is seeking public input on its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) through a series of stakeholder forums in January.
  • The Lansing Board of Water and Light is planning a $500 million natural gas plant to replace a coal facility.

Michigan Energy Leaders


National Energy Stories

  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission struck down the Department of Energy’s plan to subsidize coal and nuclear plants.
  • According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, energy commodity prices increased in the second half of 2017.
  • From Axios, potential issues to watch in 2018: 1) federal deregulation; 2) solar tariffs; 3) storage compensation for coal and nuclear; 4) advances in mobility and transportation; 5) upwards trend in oil pricing.
  • Utility Dive: NARUC urges federal regulators to reform PURPA. 1) The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) is calling on federal regulators to overhaul the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to reflect major changes in the energy industry since the law was passed nearly 40 years ago. 2) In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, NARUC leadership called for regulations that would move away from administratively-determined avoided costs and encourage the use of competitive solicitations for PURPA compliance and project selection. 3) Many states have been making ad hoc changes to how the law is applied, as some utilities say they are required to purchase unnecessary power after a slew of smaller renewable projects are proposed. 
  • Democrats force Trump administration to reconsider nominee for top White House environmental post. The Trump administration has to decide whether to renominate Kathleen Hartnett White, or choose somebody else, to be the top environmental official in the White House after the Senate declined to consider her nomination before the end of Congress’ current session. Democrats have successfully stalled White’s confirmation, with the Senate returning her nomination to the White House rather than automatically tabling her nomination into 2018 with other pending nominations.
  • BP, Shell and other international companies will pay massive one-time charges to adjust to new U.S. tax rules, but the changes are expected to bring long-term financial benefits to the companies.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will review its pipeline approval process that was adopted in 1999. 
  • How the new tax code may affect utilities and the electric power sector in 2018.
  • Largely due to new capacity performance rules in the PJM market, a new analysis shows demand response played a smaller role in wholesale markets in 2016. 
  • A roundup of last year’s top developments in rate design, distributed energy deployments, and utility business models.
  • At the beginning of the new year, nearly half of Puerto Ricans still do not have power. Puerto Rico authorities said Friday that nearly half of power customers in the U.S. territory still lack electricity more than three months after Hurricane Maria, sparking outrage among islanders who accuse the government of mismanaging its response to the Category 4 storm. Officials said 55 percent of the nearly 1.5 million customers have power, marking the first time the government has provided that statistic since Maria hit on Sept. 20 with winds of up to 154 mph.


Michigan Energy Events

Exclusive: Institute for Energy Innovation and the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council are hosting a Solar 101 Lunch & Learn on February 6. Please note the new date; this event was originally scheduled for January 25. This event is only open to Michigan state legislators, legislative staff, and Michigan EIBC member companies. 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

The 2nd Smart Cities International Symposium and Exhibition, January 17-18 in Chicago, brings together municipal professionals and thought leaders to explore technology advances and key lessons to date in achieving the Smart City vision. Register here.

Join SEIA’s CEO Abigail Hopper, clean energy communications expert Jane Bloch, utility executives and industry experts at RENEW Wisconsin’s “Connecting to a Powerful Future” Summit. Thursday, January 18, in Madison, WI. Register Today!

EUCI invites you to the 6th Annual Utilities and Data Centers Conference, January 30-31, in Austin, TX. The conference will provide perspectives, case studies, stories from the entire data center “ecosystem” and share best practices as to how the development of smart cities is affecting the data center landscape, what data centers need from their utilities to ensure they are providing the best product to their enterprise customers and how utilities are attracting and retaining data centers through mission-critical reliability standards. Register here.

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.

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.

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

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


Announcements and Opportunities

The Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE), through the Michigan Energy Office (MEO), is offering a grant to develop a plan for optimized electric vehicle (EV) charger placement along Michigan highways to support bus, freight, and emergency vehicle traffic. The proposal deadline is January 15. Click here to view the full solicitation.

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.