Walker-Miller Energy Services Plans “Zero Net Energy” Headquarters; Report Shows Michigan’s Progress in Clean Energy Jobs

When it comes to improving energy efficiency, the city of Detroit is no easy place: aging, often neglected housing stock and commercial buildings, and a cold-winter/hot-summer climate that keeps HVAC systems busy.

But in this tough environment, Michigan EIBC member company Walker-Miller Energy Services is working to demonstrate that not just greater energy efficiency, but the gold standard of building efficiency, is possible. Walker-Miller recently cut the ribbon on a two-story, 31,000 sq. ft. headquarters in the heart of Detroit on which they are beginning renovations to become one of the relatively few Verified Zero Net Energy buildings in the country.

A designation for buildings that consume only as much energy as they produce from renewable sources, zero net energy is a goal that will take time and investment to reach. But it is a task Walker-Miller sees as worthwhile because of the company’s focus on energy waste reduction and utility energy efficiency programs. The team of energy specialists install LED lightbulbs, advanced thermostats, low-flow showerheads, and other energy saving measures in thousands of homes and businesses annually.

“We feel it’s our duty to fulfill those same ambitions in our own space,” Walker-Miller Energy Engineer Ben Dueweke says. “We want to be stewards of our energy space, the city and the planet.”

To get to zero net energy, Walker-Miller hopes to turn “The Emerald Corner,” as the new HQ has been dubbed, into the office building of the future: rooftop solar, an all-electric heating system, window shades that automatically deploy or retract in response to ambient light and a smart HVAC system that can sense the presence of occupants and adjust temperature accordingly.

Retrofitting the building, which dates back to the mid-1960s, will require a significant transformation.

“Nobody was really thinking about energy conservation at the time it was built,” Dueweke says. “The biggest challenge is taking something old and bringing it to modern-day technology.”

For example, the all original HVAC equipment maintains one temperature for more or less the whole building. After renovations, the Emerald Corner will use digital dashboards that allow employees and visitors to set each room to the temperature of their comfort. An all-electric, air-sourced heat pump system, significantly more energy-efficient than traditional natural gas heating, will also be installed.

Founder, CEO, and EIBC Board Member Carla Walker-Miller has grown the company from a single-person startup 20 years ago to one of the largest energy waste reduction companies in the country owned by an African-American woman. At an April 30 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the headquarters that was attended by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, among others, Walker-Miller said that the company’s new home “underscores our long-standing commitment to Detroit. We are extremely blessed to be able to grow our team, empower people and enrich communities right here.” 

Report Shows Michigan’s Progress in Clean Energy Jobs

Detroit’s transition from Motor City to Electric Motor City is one of the biggest drivers of clean energy jobs in Michigan, according to a recent report from the Clean Energy Trust that tracks the explosion of jobs in sectors like energy efficiency, storage, smart grid and advanced transportation across each of the 50 states.

At 25,304, Michigan has more advanced transportation jobs than any other state. The sector includes jobs in the design and manufacturing of hybrid vehicles and EVs. Michigan added 3,488 advanced transportation jobs in 2018, which represents a 16% growth rate. Overall, Michigan added 4,800 advanced energy jobs in 2018, which represents a 4% growth rate, 2.5 times higher than the general job growth rate. 

The impressive numbers follow a recent influx of capital to make Detroit an EV hub, such as the $700 million investment by EIBC member company Amazon into electric pickup truck and SUV developer Rivian Automotive, based in Plymouth, MI. Ford recently announced that it is investing another $500 million into Rivian.

Michigan continues to be a hotbed of activity for those working to do the technical work to transition the automotive industry toward electrification. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is holding its Transportation Electrification Conference & Expo in Novi on June 19 to 21, with discussions on how to integrate smart energy fleets with smart grids, the design of EVs and more.

While Michigan is a national leader in the EV field, the report also notes that the clean energy industry in the state as a whole is “broad, diverse and growing.” Energy efficiency is the largest sector in the state, making up 67.5% of all Michigan clean jobs. Based on employer surveys, the report expects clean energy jobs to grow faster in Michigan than any other Midwestern state.  

 EIBC’s 7th EV Convening: State Administrative Actions to Support Electric Vehicles

On May 3, Michigan EIBC and the Institute for Energy Innovation hosted our 7th EV convening on electric vehicles at the Michigan Municipal League. Building from Michigan EIBC’s six EV convenings in 2018, the event focused on actions that the state Governor’s administration can take to support vehicle electrification. During Michigan EIBC’s first six convenings, participants learned from experts and participated in facilitated discussions to identify the persistent gaps in support for EV electrification. From those discussions, participants identified four areas where the administration could take action: 1) leveraging Michigan’s VW settlement for increased electrification; 2) increasing governmental coordination; 3) supporting local governments to adopt EVs; and 4) procuring electric vehicles for state government-owned and -leased vehicles. 
Sponsored by the Michigan Energy Office, last week’s event included four presentations and facilitated discussion with the attendees. The event started with comments from Kara Cook, Policy Advisor on Energy/Environment for Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Cook reaffirmed the governor’s commitment to transportation electrification and the administration’s need for ideas on how best to support vehicle electrification. The more than 50 attendees then heard from four different experts on key areas of action for the administration. 

Colorado’s Experience: Using VW settlement funds for increased electrification
Will Toor, the executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, shared lessons learned from Colorado. In 2018, former Colorado Governor Hickenlooper set a goal of 1 million EVs on the road in Colorado by 2030. As a result, the state of Colorado developed a variety of incentives and policies to solve for four challenges: 1) limited vehicle model availability; 2) high upfront costs; 3) limited EV charging infrastructure; and limited consumer awareness. As a part of this strategy, Colorado revamped it’s plan for its VW settlement funds. The original plan allocated $10 million to EVs and $60 million to diesel retrofits. In January 2019, Colorado Governor Polis issued an executive order that all future VW funds would be used for zero emission vehicles. Toor reported that rewriting the plan for the VW settlement funds and reconfiguring the state’s approach to better support electric vehicles required minimal work on behalf of state staff.

Increasing Governmental & NGO Coordination
Douglas Jester of 5 Lakes Energy helped participants understand the various considerations and options for increased coordination around electric vehicles in state government. A number of EV-related factors require increased coordination across departments, including — but certainly not limited to — the need for data on where cars are registered, road data on travel patterns, site hosting capacity, how to locate DC fast charging stations, and how local governments zone and plan. To tackle these challenges, the administration may benefit from creating new governmental bodies, tools, or budgets. 

Communities: EV Ready Buildings, Zoning, and Procurement
Shanna Draheim of the Michigan Municipal League shared key considerations for local governments when looking at vehicle electrification. Namely, local governments are looking at planning, zoning, and building codes to become “EV ready.” Communities are also considering how to transition their fleets to electric vehicles. Draheim pointed out that the administration could support local communities through funding and grants for local governments and businesses or helping to facilitate aggregated purchasing of electric vehicles.

State EV Procurement Goals & Key Considerations
Matt Stanberry from Advanced Energy Economy framed the key decision points for procurement of electric vehicles for state fleets. Stanberry highlighted that Michigan’s fleet — which consists of a 13,802 vehicles — could serve as an important starting point for vehicle electrification for the administration. If the administration were to set fleet procurement targets, such a target should consider the timing, target type, fuel type, and vehicle class. 

Following the discussion, participants broke into facilitated discussion groups based on the four presentation topics. Participants thought practically about how to support administrative action in each of these areas. Michigan EIBC is summarizing the notes from those conversations and will use these discussions to inform recommendations for the Whitmer administration. 

New Members

New Dawn Energy
New Dawn Energy is a Michigan based Solar Development Services Company. NDE works with investors, developers and municipalities to provide early stage development services such as feasibility studies, site research, negotiating land control, interacting with jurisdictional authorities, and arranging construction finance. We have worked with most Michigan utilities over the past five years.Our owners have strong investment backgrounds and long term relationships with solar investors, regulators, land owners and EPC companies in Michigan.

Hanwha Q CELLS America Inc. is headquartered in Irvine, CA and handles sales for the North American region. Hanwha Q CELLS Co., Ltd. and Hanwha Q CELLS & Advanced Materials Corporation (Collectively, “Hanwha Q CELLS”) is one of the world´s largest and most recognized photovoltaic manufacturers for its high-performance, high-quality solar cells and modules. It is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea (Global Executive HQ) and Thalheim, Germany (Technology & Innovation HQ) with its diverse international manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Malaysia, China, and South Korea. Hanwha Q CELLS is a flagship company of Hanwha Group, a FORTUNE Global 500 firm and a Top 10 business enterprise in South Korea.  

Renewing Members

AmazonAt Amazon, we are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability not only because it is good for the environment, but also for the customer. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It’s a win-win-win.Amazon AmerescoAmeresco, Inc. is a leading independent provider of comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for facilities throughout North America and the United Kingdom, delivering long-term value through innovative systems, strategies and technologies. Ameresco’s solutions range from upgrades to facility’s energy infrastructure to the development, construction and operation of renewable energy plants combined with tailored financial solutions. We work with customers on both sides of the meter to reduce operating expenses, upgrade and maintain facilities, stabilize energy costs, improve occupancy comfort levels, increase energy reliability and enhance the environment. Chart House EnergyChart House Energy is a full service commercial / industrial renewable energy development firm with specialty in not-for-profit and governmental agency projects. EDP RenewablesEDP Renewables North America (“EDPR NA”) and its subsidiaries develop, construct, own, and operate wind farms and solar parks throughout North America. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, EDPR NA operates more than 5,600 MW of renewable energy projects across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. EDPR NA is owned by EDP Renováveis, S.A. (“EDP Renewables” or “EDPR”), a global leader in the renewable energy sector committed to renewable energy generation which has become reliable and competitive due to technological advancements that have led to greater efficiencies. The company operates in the most attractive markets, continuously expanding to new areas of the world. LexTM3LexTM3 is a leading manufacturer of innovative power distribution and control systems for demanding markets, including entertainment, industrial and the military. The privately-owned company was formed in 2015 as a merger between Lex Products Corp, founded in 1989, and TM3 Systems Inc, founded in 2012. The company specializes in smart and conventional portable power systems including distribution boxes, cable assemblies, connectors, cable protectors and other products, designed to withstand rough use and harsh environments. LexTM3 is ISO 9001:2008 certified across its four U.S. manufacturing facilities and MIL-STD790 Complaint and AS9100 certified at its military facility in Davie, FL. Michigan Solar SolutionsMichiganSolarSolutionswas established in 2008. MSS has earned an excellent reputation for designing, selling, servicing and installing solarelectric systems for homes, businesses, commercial buildings and municipalities. Petros PACE FinancePetros PACE Finance has quickly become a national leader in providing low-cost, long-term PACE financing to commercial property owners. Petros PACE Finance has significant institutional backing and was founded by a team with a collective 60+ years of experience in building and assisting companies with strategic capital, advice, and strong business relationships. We have been involved in the PACE market since 2010 and have played a major role in the implementation of many PACE programs. Through our knowledge and experience, we have developed a flexible financing program designed to seamlessly help property owners and industry partners reap the many benefits of PACE financing. Phoenix Contact E-MobilityAs one of the leading providers of products and services for the charging process of electric vehicles, we offer a range covering all aspects of electromobility – from individual components through to complete fleet management. Your advantages An extensive range for the charging process of electric vehicles Standard-compliant AC and DC charging systems for worldwide application Expertise in fast charging technology with the Combined Charging System (CCS) Consistent solutions from vehicle interface up to the IT and network level Special solutions for electric vehicles, electric buses, and bicycles. Plug SmartPlug Smart’s skilled team of engineers, project managers and field technicians are able to deliver true full-service energy projects like no one else. Starting with the industry’s most comprehensive energy and equipment audit, Plug Smart will bring unprecedented visibility into your facilities’ energy consumption that will lead to a number of unique savings opportunities. Our financial analysis will help you determine the right funding strategy to minimize capital outlay and ensure that budget constraints are maintained. Most often, we can design a program that eliminates any initial investment, with payments that are met exclusively through project savings. Plug Smart’s customer-focused approach is also vendor-neutral, allowing you to select trusted contractors to work on the project. Our pricing method builds trust by offering complete transparency before, during and after the project. Additionally, Plug Smart boasts an impeccable record of on-time, on-budget performance, having never defaulted on a savings guarantee. RenergeticaRenergetica founded in Genoa in 2008, works in the renewable energy sector both as a direct investor in its own plants and as a system integrator. In 2015 it establishes Renergetica Usa Corporation which is committed in the development of the market in North America and Caribbean. Thanks to its strong financials, engineering and industrial skills, Renergetica is able to meet market demands and to manage critical conditions and challenging regulations, seizing new exciting opportunities for our customers. The Renergetica Group boasts a significant track record that includes more than 13 installed renewable energy systems, producing a total of 152 MW around the world and another 24 MWp will soon be added in Chile. In 2014 the Company launched SHES – Smart Hybrid Energy Solutions, a pioneering project aimed at micro-hybrid grids, a market forecast to grow strongly. In the next years Renergetica Usa Corporation goal is to develop 200 MW PV plants in USA and most of them are already in progress. Schneider ElectricSchneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage, and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global Ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest Partner, Integrator and Developer Community on our Open Platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company aand that our commitment to Innovation, Diversity and Sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment. Sempra RenewablesSempra U. S. Gas & Power is a leading developer of clean energy solutions throughout the United States. The company is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 energy holding company based in San Diego, California. Sempra U.S. Gas & Power is the developer, owner and future operator of Apple Blossom Wind, a 78-megawatt wind facility in Huron County. The company has more than 2,000 megawatts of wind and solar generation in the United States. SoltageSoltage is a leader in the development, financing, and operation of solar power systems serving commercial, industrial, utility, and municipal customers across the United States. The company has developed more than 50 solar energy projects, with more than 150 MW total distributed generating capacity under management across eight states in the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and Southeast U.S.Soltagespecializes in community solar and virtually net metered solutions for commercial, residential, and government offtakers; utility-scale projects for investor-owned utilities; solar energy solutions for corporate clients; and solar “brightfield” projects developed on brownfields or capped landfills.  Spartan Renewable EnergySpartan Renewable Energy was founded in 2006 to sell renewable energy into Michigan’s Electric Choice market and to develop renewable energy projects. Spartan is a licensed Alternative Electric Supplier and also has market-based rate authority to sell into wholesale energy markets. Spartan is a member of Wolverine Power Cooperative. The Energy Alliance GroupIn 2012, The Energy Alliance Group of North America (EAG) was started for one purpose, to develop and deploy innovative solutions to energy, waste, and environmental challenges around the world. The differentiating strength of our methods for developing solutions is the holistic approach we take and the extensive knowledge we and our partners have, in technology, financing, incentives, and integrated services – all critical elements to insuring the highest return on investment (ROI) for our clients.   

Michigan Energy News

  • The $273.3 million rate increase for DTE Energy that was recently approved will partially be used by the utility to help pay for the $1 billion natural gas-fired power plant currently being built near the St. Clair River.
  • EIBC President Laura Sherman calls a new bill in the Michigan legislature to remove regulatory barriers for microgrids a “good first step” to expand the value of microgrids beyond hospitals and other “critical facilities” to new types of customers like combined heat and power installations.
  • American Transmission Co., which operates several high-voltage electric lines under the Straits of Mackinac, says that the current proposal for a “utility tunnel” that would encase the Line 5 oil pipeline with other utility lines would be a bad idea.
  • Elk Rapids, Mich., is looking at installing solar panels to cut high electric bills at government facilities, such as the village’s wastewater treatment plant.
  • DTE Energy confirms that it is one of 60 Fortune 500 companies that did not pay federal income taxes in 2018.
  • The Michigan Public Service Commission approves a new contract for Consumers Energy to buy power from Viking Energy’s wood-burning biomass plants in northeast Michigan, but another contract with Hillman Power’s biomass plant is still pending, prompting concern about the economic damage to the local community if the plant has to close.
  • A challenge to an ordinance in Mendon Township that allowed Geronimo Energy to move forward with its White Pine Solar project will be on the ballot in the township this fall.
  • Tesla Inc. opens a new service center in Toledo near the border with Michigan, a state where it has been banned from selling cars.
  • Michigan State University, which has a carport solar array and an anaerobic digester, is one of eight schools in the Big Ten Conference that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes for a high level of green power use.

National Energy News

  • With Nevada, New Mexico and most recently Washington state all signing on to bold clean energy targets in this year alone, joining California and several other states, one in five U.S. residents now live in a state committed to 100% clean electricity.
  • The CEO Illinois utility Commonwealth Edison believes much more energy storage will be needed in his state to accommodate the wind and solar generation that will be coming online in the future.
  • Recycled electric vehicle batteries could find a second life in utility energy storage applications and provide over 200 GWh of storage by 2030, a recent report from the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility says.
  • Colorado lawmakers pass a bill that would place utility Tri-State Generation & Transmission Co. under additional regulatory oversight after rural electric cooperative complained the utility is not offering enough opportunities to buy clean power.
  • Eagle Point Solar is battling Wisconsin utility We Energies over whether the solar developer can lease rooftop solar to the city of Milwaukee without the utility owning the project.
  • We Energies also asks in a recent rate filing for regulators to increase fixed charges and charge a fee of $3.53 per kW on residential customers who use solar.
  • The Nebraska legislature has passed a bill that creates what some clean energy advocates are calling the strongest energy efficiency codes in the Midwest for residential and commercial buildings.
  • The site of Massachusetts’ last coal-fired power plant will become a logistics and manufacturing hub for the offshore wind industry.

Michigan Energy Events  

Save the date: Institute for Energy Innovation Energy 101: Solar on May 22 in Lansing. Register here.

Save the date for the U.P. Energy Summit on Friday, June 14 at Northern Michigan University. Free to attend. Additional details will be made available on the U.P. Energy Summit website.

The IEEE Transportation Electrification Conference & Expo (ITEC) www.itec-conf.com will be held in Novi, MI. 19-21 June 2019. (ITEC’19) is aimed at helping the industry in the transition from conventional vehicles to advanced electrified vehicles.

National Energy Events    

Attend the Illumination Energy Summit in Columbus, Ohio May 15-16. Register here.DISCOUNT for Michigan EIBC members to Advanced Energy Now | East • June 13 • Richmond, VA: Join us at AEE’s new regional energy policy conference, Advanced Energy Now | East, to network with industry leaders and work on an action agenda for growing your business. Full agenda and speaker bios available – HERE. For registration code, EIBC members should reach out to mieibc@mieibc.org

Attend the Clean Cities Renewable Procurement Summit in Denver, Colorado July 23-25. Register here. Attend the Grid Evolution Summit hosted by SEPA on July 29 – August 1, 2019 | Washington, DC