Renewable Zoning Database, the Upper Peninsula Perspective on DG and More

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:

New Michigan Database Helps Renewable Project Developers Navigate Local Ordinances

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) has a new database to help renewable energy project developers navigate the complex world of local ordinances affecting project siting, and the input of Michigan EIBC members was essential to the creation of this unique tool.

The “Zoning for Clean Energy” database catalogues the zoning ordinances of over 1,800 jurisdictions around the state, and is provided free in order to help the public, developers and government officials understand the rules for building utility-scale wind and solar projects in various communities across Michigan.

The Graham Sustainability Initiative at the University of Michigan built out the database through a partnership with EGLE. Michigan EIBC member companies gave critical insights to the database during its development. 

Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman On How to Invest VW Settlement Funds to Support Electrification

In a new article published by Energy News Network, Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman writes about a powerful first step the state administration can take: directing more of the Volkswagen settlement funds toward EVs. Just last week, Gov. Whitmer signed executive orders creating the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification within the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and establishing a new Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification.

“As electricity becomes the dominant energy source for transportation, fuel-burning vehicles will be slowly outmoded — the transportation equivalent to VHS cassettes,” Dr. Sherman writes. “The VW settlement funds should be invested in the future of the industry, not the past.”

Drawing upon the report recently published by the Institute for Energy Innovation, the article explains specific ways the settlement funds can be used to create positive feedback loops that can lead to growth in the adoption of EVs and the deployment of EV infrastructure in Michigan.

Peninsula Solar Talks Distributed Generation and Powering Michigan Forward at Senate Hearing

The cap on distributed generation that the Powering Michigan Forward legislation seeks to lift harms the growth of distributed solar energy across the entire state. Ben Schimpf, project manager for Michigan EIBC member Peninsula Solar, brought the perspective of an Upper Peninsula-based rooftop solar company to Lansing when he testified at a Senate Energy and Technology Committee hearing on March 3.

“I’m here today having driven 400 miles from Marquette to make a case for not only my livelihood but for the future of renewable energy in Michigan,” Schimpf said. “My livelihood and my coworkers’ livelihoods depend on an increase of the distributed generation cap.”

Upper Peninsula residents face some of the highest electricity rates in the country, giving them even more incentive to use their own energy generated by rooftop solar. But the cap on how much distributed generation a regulated utility can have in its service territory arbitrarily limits the number of customers who are able to benefit from rooftop solar.

Peninsula Solar already experienced the problem in 2016 when Upper Peninsula Power Co. hit its cap, causing it to reject further interconnection applications from distributed generation projects. “This crippled our sales and nearly drove us under. The results were immediate – we had projects on the table that were lost,” Schimpf said of the 2016 experience. It took months to remarket ourselves to other utilities – utilities that are dangerously close to meeting their own caps on distributed generation.” 

While UPPCO’s cap was raised, that new, higher cap will likely be met later this year, Schimpf said.

Just a few weeks earlier, representatives of Michigan EIBC members Michigan Solar Solutions, Harvest Solar and POWERHOME Solar also testified before the Senate Energy and Technology Committee in support of the legislation, as detailed in a previous edition of our newsletter. 


New Panels for 8th Annual Energy Innovators Conference on April 22

Panel discussions on the most exciting topics in energy today are being announced for the 8th Annual Energy Innovators Conference (formerly Annual Member Meeting) on Wednesday, April 22 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. 

  • Beyond Poles and Wires: Distribution System Planning 2.0
    • Moderator: Ryan Katofsky, Advanced Energy Economy
    • Panelists:
      • Marco Bruzzano, DTE Energy
      • Patrick Hudson, Michigan Public Service Commission
      • Brian Lydic, Interstate Renewable Energy Council
      • Sarah Mills, University of Michigan – Ford School of Public Policy
  • Earth Day 50: Achieving the Triple Bottom Line
    • Moderator: Dr. Brandy Brown, Michigan EGLE
    • Panelists:
      • Ben Dueweke, Walker-Miller Energy Services
      • Kerry Duggan, RIDGE-LANE Energy Partners
      • Anand Gangadharan, NOVI Energy
  • Building the Advanced Energy Workforce
  • The Future of Energy in the Built Environment
  • Peering into the Crystal Ball: What the 2020 Election Could Mean for Energy Policy
  • From Goals to Reality: Achieving Advanced Energy Commitments

The keynote speaker is Patti Poppe, President and Chief Executive Officer of Jackson, Michigan-based CMS Energy and its principal subsidiary, Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility and the nation’s fourth largest combination utility.

Register to attend today. Sponsorship opportunities can be found on the Michigan EIBC website.  

Event Sponsors

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Michigan Energy News

  • State officials want grid operator the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) to report on the costs and benefits of importing more electricity into the Lower Peninsula from surrounding states.
  • New settlement agreements approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission will expand energy waste reduction programs for electric customers of Consumers Energy and electric and natural gas customers of DTE Energy.
  • Several bills promoting EV charging have stalled in the state legislature.
  • At a town hall at Royal Oak Middle School, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) speaks about his legislation to create a nationwide EV charging network.
  • Debate over the Powering Michigan Forward legislation is heating up.
  • L’Anse, a small town in the Upper Peninsula, becomes the latest Michigan municipality to embrace community solar with a 340-panel, 110.5-kW array.
  • GM plans to add EV chargers for all employees at its facilities in the US and Canada.

National Energy News

  • The electric utility of Burlington, Vt., is offering some of its customers an app that works like an “Airbnb of EV charging” as part of a new pilot program.
  • The U.S. subsidiary of Danish offshore wind company Orsted is opening an “innovation hub” in Rhode Island in expectation of offshore wind development in North America.
  • The effects of the coronavirus in China are starting to delay solar installations in the Midwest.
  • Tax credits for renewables and EVs will likely not make it into the Senate energy bill, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) admits.
  • Storage companies are finding more interest in project finance from banks.
  • Florida Power & Light receives regulatory approval for a 1.5-GW community solar program.

Michigan Energy Events

Register for the 10th EV Convening planned for March 9 at the Michigan Municipal League in downtown Lansing. The topic is DCFC Infrastructure.

The Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association’s 6th Annual Banquet & Awards Celebration will be on March 12 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. Tickets are available here.

Tickets are available for the Southeast Michigan PACE Summit in Ann Arbor on April 15, hosted by Michigan EIBC member Lean & Green Michigan. Learn about work in Southeast Michigan regarding PACE financing and the economic benefits of green buildings.

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.

National Energy Events

The CLEANPOWER 2020 expo, organized by the American Wind Energy Association, will be in Denver from June 1 to 4, 2020. See registration options now.


 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.