What Michigan EIBC Has Done In 2020 Thus Far, More FERC Activity, Action at Michigan Legislature

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:

2020 Thus Far For Michigan EIBC

We are already past the midway point for 2020 – what has been an exceptionally challenging year for everyone. Michigan EIBC’s work and the work of our member companies has nevertheless continued and grown. Here are the highlights of what we have accomplished so far this year as we have adjusted to current events.

-In May Michigan EIBC released a memo to state policymakers on the most important administrative, regulatory and legislative steps to keep the advanced energy industry vibrant during and after the pandemic.

-We urged the state to hold steady with its energy efficiency goals. Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman published an article in Utility Dive about why the merits of energy efficiency have not been diminished, which included quotes from Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) Chairman Sally Talberg. In conjunction with the Advanced Energy Economy Institute, we filed comments with the MPSC about how to increase incentives for energy waste reduction programs while maintaining health and safety in light of COVID-19.

-After a participant in one of our April webinars raised concerns about the ability to notarize  contracts given the need to avoid in-person meetings, Michigan EIBC raised this issue with the office of Gov. Whitmer and shortly thereafter, the governor issued an executive order clarifying that “strict compliance” with regular notary rules is suspended and allowing for virtual notarization. This was an important step for member companies that needed to keep completing contracts throughout the pandemic.

-In March, our last in-person event was the 10th in the long-running series of EV Convenings. This event featured Chris Nelder, manager with Rocky Mountain Institute’s mobility practice.

-The Institute for Energy Innovation kept to its schedule of Energy 101 sessions to educate state legislators and their staff about policy issues affecting advanced energy, including sessions like a virtual EV test drive

-Michigan EIBC created a new virtual webinar series for members, called “Bring Your Own Lunch (& Learn).” The series has included conversations with Commissioner Dan Scripps, NARUC Executive Director Greg White, and  a virtual tour of Michigan EIBC member Ventower Industries.

-We added public webinars on newer topics like building electrification and how it is the next horizon of advanced energy.

-The first energy storage convening was very well-attended and featured speakers like Jigar Shah, founder and CEO of Michigan EIBC Member Generate Capital, and co-host of The Energy Gang podcast.

-Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman regularly published articles explaining the case for policies to spur the development of advanced energy, such as this one about manufacturing during the pandemic.

-While it was disappointing that the 8th Annual Energy Innovators Conference had to be delayed, on Earth Day (when the conference would have been held if not for the pandemic) we held a virtual conference featuring speakers including Commissioner Dan Scripps and Dr. Brandy Brown, and more speakers have been announced for the rescheduled virtual Energy Innovators Conference on Aug. 27.

-Early this year the long process of approval for DTE’s integrated resource plan winded down, and the MPSC ordered DTE to improve its plan’s approach in ways aligned with comments submitted by Michigan EIBC and other groups.

-Michigan EIBC and its members kept up the fight to lift the cap on distributed generation, and participated in multiple hearings at the state legislature.

-The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) released a new database of local wind and solar zoning ordinances, a tool that was developed with insight from Michigan EIBC member companies.

-Michigan EIBC continues to intervene in the ongoing rate case for Consumers Energy, as well as Consumers Energy’s voluntary green pricing program case. The latter case was the subject of an article in Energy News Network by Laura Sherman.

-We continued to participate in and submit comments on the process to craft new rules for the interconnection of distributed energy in Michigan.

-Efforts to educate House legislative candidates on advanced energy industry policy issues are ongoing virtually. 

Update On Distributed Generation Bill In State Legislature

At a July 22 hearing of the Michigan Senate Energy and Technology Committee, Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman urged the lawmakers to reject an attempt to substitute legislation that would lift the cap on distributed generation with a new bill that would not treat distributed generation fairly. Despite the possibility of a vote occurring, after the hearing, the committee did not vote on the substitute legislation, which would have kept the current 1% cap through 2022, and only increased it to 2% by 2023.

“Eliminating or raising the cap will preserve the solar industry and help create more high-paying jobs in Michigan,” Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman said. “Based on historical installation rates, it is clear that only an increase in the cap to 5% will provide certainty for the industry for the next few years. Unfortunately, the substitute bill would only provide a few months of additional certainty and would be a major setback for Michigan’s growing solar industry which has been a bright spot in an otherwise challenging economy.” Under the revised bill, sub-categories for eligible participants were eliminated, but the 1% cap through 2022 remains. Given the number of current installations, only a small additional number of installations would be possible.

“Forcing small businesses to close down and jobs to be lost just as the economy is opening back up is the wrong direction for Michigan,” Sherman said. “We urge the Senate to re-consider the direction this bill is headed. Eliminating the cap on distributed generation, or at least raising it incrementally, will give Michigan’s solar industry more certainty, protecting jobs and small businesses.”  


FERC Makes Big Changes to Long-Standing PURPA Rules

Last week ratepayers and the distributed solar industry got a win at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) when the commission rejected an attempt to undermine states’ abilities to set policies for distributed energy, as discussed in last week’s newsletter. But also last week, FERC made changes in its implementation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) – some of the biggest changes since PURPA was passed in 1978. FERC’s action came against the objections of renewable energy advocates like Michigan EIBC National Associate Member the Solar Energy Industries Association, who argue that the changes will hurt small-scale projects from third-party developers.

The change that is perhaps most relevant to Michigan is FERC’s decision to tighten the threshold for determining whether a project is a “qualifying facility,” (QF) from which utilities must purchase energy. For years, FERC’s approach to PURPA assumed that projects 20 MW or under in capacity experienced barriers to compete in wholesale electricity markets like the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), of which most of Michigan is a part. Therefore, these projects had a strong argument that they should be QFs, while projects greater than 20 MW faced a “rebuttable presumption” that they have access to competitive markets and thus the utilities have no obligation to purchase from them.

FERC’s recent order, however, cuts the threshold from 20 MW down to 5 MW, creating concern that those projects in the 5 MW to 20 MW range will have more difficulty gaining contracts with utilities. In his dissent from the order, FERC Commissioner Richard Glick said that the new 5 MW threshold is unjustified because the majority opinion “does not explain how the barriers arrayed against small resources have dissipated.”

Michigan EIBC will continue to monitor the repercussions from FERC’s recent orders.  

Register Now For 11th EV Convening Featuring Michigan’s New Chief Mobility Officer

 The 11th EV Convening (and second of 2020) will take place via Zoom on Tuesday, August 11 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm EST. 

The topic is Public Fleet Electrification and will feature the following confirmed panelists:

  • Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer, State of Michigan, Office of Future Mobility and Electrification / MEDC
  • Mary Till, Director of Business Development, Sawatch Labs
  • Aaron Viles, Program Manager, Electrification Coalition
  • Christian Williss, Director, Transportation Fuels and Technology, Colorado Energy Office

Register today!

Renewing Members

Clark Hill PLCClark Hill is a multidisciplinary, international law firm that draws on our attorneys’ comprehensive industry and policy knowledge and a global network of industry advisors and subject-matter experts to provide innovative legal solutions and client-service excellence worldwide.Clark Hill’s Energy Law & Utilities team has more than 100 years of collective experience in all areas of energy law, utility regulation and deregulation, and project development. We have represented large industrial corporations, small businesses, trade groups, power producers, municipal utilities, lenders and individual investors across the spectrum of energy issues and in negotiations with public utilities.
Our Energy Law & Utilities practice group counsels clients from coast to coast with respect to regulatory matters arising before state public utility commissions. At the federal level, our lawyers have represented applicants and interveners in rate filings, certificate proceedings, rulemakings and other proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Four Elements EnergyFour Elements Energy* designs and installs solar ( electric, water heating, air heating) and wind renewable energy systems. 
*Four Elements Energy recently received an award for being a 10 year member in good standing from the Grand Rapids office of the Better Business Bureau. Congratulations!

Michigan SavesMichigan Saves is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making energy improvements easy and affordable. We operate as a green bank to offer financing programs that help Michigan residents take control of their energy costs through efficiency and renewable projects. 

Michigan Energy News

  • Jim Murray, Midwest regional director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access, speaks with Crain’s Detroit Business about his efforts to open the market for community solar in Michigan.
  • U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouilette visits the GM Estes Battery Lab and Design Center in Warren.
  • Traverse City Light & Power is pursuing multiple solar projects including a 90-MW array.
  • The city of Saginaw approves the purchase of eight EV charging stations for its downtown and Old Town areas.
  • Michigan EIBC member Ranger Power’s Assembly Solar project is about 20 percent complete.
  • Gov. Whitmer is pressuring Enbridge to acknowledge that it would cover the financial costs of a spill from the Line 5 pipeline.

National Energy News

  • The controversial Ohio bill to bail out FirstEnergy nuclear power plants is now at the center of an alleged bribery scandal.
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says he believes the FirstEnergy-supported law should be repealed and replaced.
  • The size of American houses could be one of the biggest impediments to emissions reductions goals, according to a University of Michigan study.
  • Michigan EIBC member Geronimo Energy talks about the benefits of the virtual power purchase agreements its new Illinois wind farm has with major purchasers like Apple.
  • Impressive growth in microgrids in 2019 is likely going to slow down in 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie.
  • COVID-19 is slowing down the implementation of California’s rooftop solar mandate.

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.

The National Regulatory Research Institute has a three-part webinar series on “The Impact of COVID-19 on Utility Rate Making.”

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

Every Tuesday at noon from June 23 to August 25, Michigan EIBC member Michigan CAT is holding an Advanced Energy 101 training series of webinars for engineers, focusing on software tools, design resources and project development for distributed power generation systems. Participants can earn up to 10 professional development hours. Register for free by June 22.

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education’s workshop on simulating the payback of solar PV systems has sessions on July 28, July 30, Aug 4 and Aug 6Learn more here.

The Michigan Energy Providers Conference is switching to a virtual format and will occur on July 30.

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.)

PlugVolt’s next Battery Seminar has been postponed from the previous dates of July 21-23, 2020, to July 13-15, 2021.   

National Energy Events

 The Great Plains Institute is holding a webinar series on the Midwestern clean fuels policy. Learn more here


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources released new RFPs for utility-scale solar systems at sites in northern Michigan, one in Dickinson County and the other in Crawford County. Find more information here.

The Kent County Department of Public Works is looking for an anchor tenant for its planned Sustainable Business Park. Learn about the RFP here.

The Green Task Force is requesting that non-profit and faith-based organizations fill out a brief survey to assess readiness for solar projects.

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.

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

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 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.