Renewable Energy in the Pandemic, Advanced Energy on the Ground

Welcome to the weekly newsletter of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (Michigan EIBC), the business voice for advanced energy in Michigan. Here’s what’s new this week:

Use of Renewable Energy Keeps Growing Despite Pandemic

Advanced energy groups continue efforts to obtain federal relief that meet the unique needs of these industries. These priorities include extending the “placed-in-service” deadline for renewable energy projects to qualify for federal tax credits. Some projects, as the Solar Energy Industries Association (a Michigan EIBC national associate member) has recently pointed out, have been able to qualify for the deadline to commence construction, but now the economic impact of the pandemic on supply chains is making it difficult to finish the projects in time.

A federal bill to extend the deadline is still possible, but other developments are occurring in the meantime.

Renewable energy will continue to be the most economic form of electricity generation and will continue to make up a bigger and bigger share of the country’s energy mix, as reported by the New York Times this week. 

“Renewable energy sources are set to account for nearly 21 percent of the electricity the United States uses for the first time this year, up from about 18 percent last year and 10 percent in 2010, according to one forecast published last week,” the Times story said. “While work on some solar and wind projects has been delayed by the outbreak, industry executives and analysts expect the renewable business to continue growing in 2020 and next year even as oil, gas and coal companies struggle financially or seek bankruptcy protection.” In an environment where energy use is declining as businesses close and people stay home, solar and wind facilities, due to their low operating costs, become more appealing to utilities relative to sources with high operating costs like coal or natural gas-fired power plants, the story notes.

Federal support has not completely dried up, either. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently extended the application deadline for its Rural Energy for America Program to April 15. This program gives agricultural businesses and rural small businesses grants for things like solar panels, insulation and more energy-efficient windows.

The federal government is not the only source of relief, of course. States have a big role to play. In a piece in Utility Dive, Mike Kruger, CEO of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association outlines steps state governments can take “to jumpstart clean energy deployment.”  

Virtual Conferences Take on the Future of Advanced Energy During and After the Pandemic

Earth Day Virtual Mini Conference
April 22

 All sectors of advanced energy are facing great uncertainty about what their markets will look like in the short-term and long-term. This Earth Day Michigan EIBC is proud to bring together a distinguished set of experts to discuss these tough questions and reflect on sustainability, the advanced energy industry, and Earth Day in this time of change. The April 22 Earth Day Virtual Mini Conference will feature Liesl Eichler Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), Dr. Brandy Brown, climate and energy advisor at EGLE, Amy Butler of Michigan State University, Ryan Katofsky of Advanced Energy Economy, and Ian Adams of Clean Energy Trust. Michigan EIBC members, sponsors, and those with tickets to the postponed Annual Energy Innovators Conference (new date to be announced soon) are invited to join (contact us if you’d like to join!). Sponsors

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Michigan EIBC is bringing you more online panel discussions so members can learn and network while staying home. The new “Bring Your Own Lunch (& Learn)” webinar series is off to a great start with more to come. On April 3 Dan Scripps, commissioner of the Michigan Public Service Commission, talked about how state regulators are responding to the pandemic. On April 10 Ryan Michael, vice president of growth and development at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, talked about resources for businesses during the crisis. Plan to join us on April 24 for a discussion with Advanced Energy Economy about advanced energy and the next federal stimulus package! Stay tuned for more webinars in May. 

Advanced Energy on the Ground: Michigan EIBC In-Person Tours Postponed but Will Return When Safe To Do So

 Michigan has a fascinating array of companies working in innovative energy technologies: hubs for electric vehicles and automated vehicles of the future, the country’s largest maker of polysilicon used in solar panel cells, designers of onsite power sources used to improve the efficiency of producing everything from auto parts to beer, and more.

The best way to understand what the state’s advanced energy sector is up to is to see it up close, which is why one of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council’s outreach priorities over the past few years has been to organize many tours of the headquarters, labs, factories and other facilities of its members across the state.

Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented in-person tours. However, we are developing plans for virtual tours — stay tuned for more information soon!  Tours not only make state legislators, regulators, administration officials and other important members of the community more familiar with Michigan advanced energy companies and the work they do, but also provide significant opportunities for networking among attendees.

Some examples of memorable tours from the past several years are:

-Bell’s Brewery in the Kalamazoo area is one of the most celebrated independent breweries in America, and their innovation goes beyond the pint glass. Bell’s has cut their energy costs with the help of Michigan EIBC member Michigan CAT, which installed an anaerobic digester, a large keg full of a bacteria that consumes brewery waste and produces methane, which can then be used to generate electricity and heat water.In the summer of 2016, advanced energy leaders, state legislators and Michigan EIBC members toured Bell’s and saw a demonstration of the anaerobic digester. Attendees included State Representative Dave Maturen and State Senators Margaret O’Brien and Tonya Schuitmaker.

-With the University of Michigan’s MCity testing ground for autonomous vehicles, Ann Arbor has become an advanced mobility hub, which is why it has attracted companies like Phoenix Contact E-Mobility, which develops devices for the quick-charging of EVs, smart vehicles and more. In February 2020 Michigan EIBC organized a tour of Phoenix Contact E-Mobility’s Ann Arbor offices and saw demonstrations of the company’s technology. Attendees also heard a presentation from Debby Bezzina, senior program manager for the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

-Michigan EIBC member Hemlock Semiconductor is one of the world’s leading producers of polycrystalline silicon, a key input for making solar cells and many components of electronic devices. Hemlock also has taken aggressive actions to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions from its operations. Michigan EIBC organized a tour of Hemlock in October 2019 that gave attendees a firsthand experience of how polysilicon is made. It also explored how corporations like Hemlock and others can use more renewable energy to power their activities. A panel discussion led to an exchange of ideas on voluntary green purchasing programs and other forms of direct procurement of renewables.

-Installed capacity from wind has grown rapidly in Michigan over the last decade and Michigan EIBC member Ventower Industries has been helping manufacture those turbines. A 2017 tour of Ventower Industries in Monroe, Mich., gave attendees, including several state legislators, a look at the company’s facilities fabricating massive steel components of wind turbine towers, such as marine foundations.  

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Michigan Energy News

  • Four small Michigan cities rank in the top 10 among peer cities for the most energy efficiency-certified buildings.
  • The pandemic is not deterring Ann Arbor from moving ahead with a plan to cut the city’s emissions.
  • Consumers Energy and DTE Energy get praise from Gov. Whitmer for plans to provide additional assistance to customers during the pandemic.
  • Under an agreement recently reached with the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice, DTE Energy will perform energy efficiency retrofits for customers with the highest unpaid bills.
  • Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe talks about the challenges utility workers are going through in the current crisis, including power plant workers who are quarantined on site.

National Energy News

  • Rooftop solar companies are shifting toward more virtual sales with the help of social media.
  • Sunrun cuts its forecast for growth in 2020 and lays off some employees.
  • The Department of Energy is funding research into how to use energy storage to improve the performance of fossil fuel-burning power plants.
  • Shelter-in-place has led to a shift in the load curve from a twice-daily peak to a flatter and lower peak.
  • Five California cities are teaming up on a contract for a new 60-MWh battery storage facility to come into service in 2022.

Online Resources

Due to the number of events that have been canceled or postponed due to the pandemic, we are sharing some online events, webinars and tutorials on advanced energy topics that may be of interest.

Due to COVID-19, PlugVolt is offering complimentary access to a webinar series that provides a guide to how to select primary and secondary cells for battery products.

The Small Business Association of Michigan has many online resources including Youtube webinars and daily video briefings about COVID-19 and how small businesses in Michigan can cope.

Norton Rose Fulbright regularly organizes webinars featuring experts and executives of major companies, such as this one on the challenges that COVID-19 and low commodity prices pose to the energy industry.

The Clean Energy Group has a huge archive of webinars and presentations related to net metering, energy efficiency, EVs, energy storage and much more.

The Energy Storage Association has a number of upcoming and recorded webinars covering many different facets of energy storage. 

Michigan Energy Events

 The Southeast Michigan PACE Summit in Ann Arbor, hosted by Michigan EIBC member Lean & Green Michigan, has been postponed from its previous April 15 date.

Michigan EIBC’s Earth Day Virtual Mini Conference is on April 22Contact us to find out how to join.

The Mid-America Regulatory Conference, an association of regional organizations of utility and regulatory agencies from 14 states, is holding its annual meeting in Grand Rapids on June 21-24

On July 21-23, 2020 PlugVolt will be hosting its next Battery Seminar in Plymouth, MI (USA), featuring an entire day of in-depth technical tutorials presented by renowned professors from several US universities on Day 1, followed by Days 2 and 3 with industry subject matter experts presenting on Automotive and Stationary Storage applications respectively. Attendees will also get an exclusive opportunity to tour A123 Systems’ new Novi, Michigan (USA) facility.

The NetZeroBuild Summit 2020, bringing together the key stakeholders involved in the Midwest’s value chain for net-zero construction in residential, commercial, academic and government buildings, is in Novi from August 25-26 (New dates due to delay related to the coronavirus.)  

National Energy Events

On April 21, Greentech Media is holding a webinar on “How To Sell Solar Remotely.”

PlugVolt has a webinar on April 22 about ongoing efforts to understand how lithium-ion batteries can withstand damage such as car crashes.

The Midwest Solar Expo, previously scheduled from May 19-21 in Minneapolis, has been postponed.  


The city of Grand Rapids Office of Sustainability and Performance Management has an opening for an internship. The deadline to apply is April 17.

5 Lakes Energy is seeking to hire a full-time campaign coordinator for the Land and Liberty Coalition, a Midwest regional collaborative fighting at the local level for the successful siting of renewable energy projects. Click here for the full job description including responsibilities, qualifications, and application instructions.

Ann Arbor Public Schools have an RFP for an electric bus charging station.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has two new RFPs related to renewable energy projects at the Oden Fish Hatchery. The RFPs are published on the state’s online bidding portal. Search for numbers 20*1376 and 20*1377 (Note: These RFPs have been put on hold until further notice).

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also plans to publish a RFP for leasing state forest land to utility-scale solar arrays. Go to the online bidding portal and use commodity code 91018 – Energy Systems, Solar Installation Systems.

The Detroit 2030 District is a free program that challenges Detroit building owners and managers to reduce wasted energy. Those that achieve the greatest reductions from the prior-year baseline will be recognized at the first annual Detroit Energy Challenge Award Ceremony in 2021. Visit to find out more information including how a building can apply.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service is seeking applications for its Rural Energy for America Program, which makes loan guarantees and grants available for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, energy audits and more. The deadlines to apply for renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grants are Oct. 31, 2019, and March 31, 2020, while applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round. Find out more here.

The Michigan Energy Office’s Small Manufacturers Energy Waste Reduction Incentive Pilot is offering rebates of up to $15,000 per company for small manufacturers that can implement energy efficiency activities between Oct. 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020. There is a 100% minimum match requirement. Click here to learn more about eligibility and apply.