- Newsletter (243)
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:
Michigan EIBC Lays Out Steps to Position Advanced Energy As A Pillar Of The Economic Recovery
Today Michigan EIBC is releasing “Supporting the Advanced Energy Industry during the COVID-19 Crisis,” a set of recommendations for how to limit job losses and restore growth for an industry that is one of Michigan’s biggest sources of employment and innovation. Whether they are involved in energy efficiency, utility-scale wind and solar energy, combined heat and power projects, rooftop solar and more, companies in this industry are seeing work stoppages, delayed or canceled projects, disrupted supply chains and other serious problems.
Michigan EIBC has identified a number of executive, legislative and regulatory actions in both the short-term and long-term that would position advanced energy to be the pillar of the economic recovery to come – when it is safe for greater economic activity to resume.
These recommendations include:
- Repurpose funds for electric vehicles: Support vehicle electrification by repurposing the Volkswagen settlement funds to support 100% electric vehicles as part of the mandate of the new mobility office.
- Energy work in unoccupied buildings: Encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy contractors to undertake projects to improve indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and renewable deployment in unoccupied buildings such as schools, universities, municipalities, churches, state buildings, and office buildings.
- Distributed generation cap: Lift the cap on the distributed generation program for rooftop solar by passing SB 597 (McBroom)/HB 5145 (Markkanen), providing certainty for solar companies looking to rehire employees.
- Energy efficiency targets: Expand energy efficiency targets beyond 2021 for municipal electric utilities and electric co-ops and build on existing energy efficiency targets for investor owned utilities.
- Energy waste reduction program flexibility: Maintain energy waste reduction requirements, but give utilities more flexibility on how to spend program dollars to enable prioritization of and increased incentives for activities that can be conducted safely (e.g., exterior efficiency measures, home energy reports, behavioral efficiency, digital marketplaces).
- Net metering timelines: Given the unprecedented recent stay-at-home orders, extend timelines for contractors and customers to qualify for net metering programs.
Please view the full recommendations to get advanced energy back on track.
Manufacturing Work Set to Resume With Protective Measures
On May 7 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that allows manufacturing facilities to resume work on May 11 as long as protective measures are in place. Examples of the required measures include daily screening protocols, suspension of all non-essential in-person visits and employee training on signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman recently wrote an article about member companies involved in manufacturing and how that work can be a core part of the state’s economic recovery.
Efficiency Can Improve Resiliency During The Recession
Michigan EIBC state partner organization the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum recently held a webinar on the question: “Will the Recovery from COVID-19 Be Green?” Panelists made the argument that the economic case for sustainable practices like greater energy efficiency is still powerful, but the pitch for these projects might need to be adjusted compared to what it would be in normal times.
Money that might have once gone to efficiency upgrades may be unavailable. “What I’m seeing is that a lot of C&I [businesses] that have money set aside for capital improvements… that money might end up having to float the business,” Bali Kumar, CEO of Michigan EIBC member Lean & Green MI and a Michigan EIBC board member, said as one of the panelists in the webinar.
But, Kumar continued, many efficiency projects can produce immediate savings for a company in both this year’s budget and for years to come. These projects, then, can be part of cost-cutting measures for businesses getting through a recession. “When it helps improve the bottom line, I am seeing folks at properties implement even the low-hanging fruit,” Kumar said.
Efficiency can also be viewed as a measure to improve resilience. “Prevention is cheaper than replacement. Yes it does cost money to do some preventative work, but… it’s much cheaper than letting the status quo live on until disaster strikes,” Kumar said.
There are also ways to get affordable financing for efficiency upgrades. Lean & Green MI is the statewide administrator for PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing, in which a municipal bond is issued to raise the capital for an efficiency improvement project, and then that loan is paid back over time through an assessment on a property tax bill. PACENation, the national organization for PACE lending, is currently advocating that efficiency improvements be made tax deductible at the federal level.
Next “Bring Your Own Lunch (& Learn)” About Utility Regulation and COVID-19
The next entry in Michigan EIBC’s new webinar series is on May 22. Greg White, executive director of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, will speak on how COVID-19 is reshaping the regulation of utilities and the way utilities operate.
These events are for Michigan EIBC members only (sign up to join today!) Michigan EIBC members will receive calendar invites with Zoom conference line information.
Michigan Energy News
- Michigan solar installers are returning to work with new protective guidelines.
- The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) says that Enbridge’s application for a permit for its Line 5 tunnel project is incomplete.
- A May 12 meeting kicking off the Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force’s second phase will evaluate energy alternatives for the Upper Peninsula.
- Consumers Energy is contributing funds for grants to small businesses in Saginaw County that are struggling during the pandemic.
- On a new podcast episode Traverse City Board of Power & Light board members explain the utility’s approach to its goal of 100% renewable energy.
- Some employees at DTE’s Fermi nuclear plant, which is shut down for a refueling and maintenance outage, tested positive for coronavirus.
National Energy News
- A new study from top economists finds that global investment into renewable energy and efficiency are cost-effective ways to revive economies.
- The Trump administration says it will give wind projects more time to qualify for tax credits.
- Many renewable energy projects are being delayed as financial backers try to determine where the economy is going.
- Low oil prices mean that a recent trend of a slowdown in U.S. EV sales is unlikely to be reversed.
- Power-to-gas technologies that use renewable energy to produce methane or hydrogen may be a solution for California’s search for long-duration storage options.
- Some sources of data indicate that due to online sales, major national residential solar installers are able to weather the pandemic better than most.
- The U.S. Department of Commerce is considering putting tariffs on steel components used in transformers, which may affect all kinds of equipment used for power generation.
- The U.S. Department of Energy is researching the value of buildings for load flexibility for utilities.
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 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
The Midwest Solar Expo, previously scheduled from May 19-21 in Minneapolis, has been postponed.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s PlanetM Testing Grant gives mobility companies the opportunity to access testing facilities around the state, including Mcity at the University of Michigan. Apply here. 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 2030districts.org/Detroit 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.