Last month the Michigan Public Service Commission decided to allow DTE Energy to move forward with plans to build a billion-dollar gas plant despite evidence that wind and solar would create greater savings for DTE customers. Now legislators in the state have introduced Energy Freedom bills in the state that could benefit residents and businesses with more solar choice.
While the commission’s actions were bemoaned by the solar industry, the new bills were heralded by renewable energy advocates. Solar advocates like the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) argued the new gas plant proposed for the East China Township won’t help with energy cost relief in the state.
“We are extremely disappointed with the Michigan Public Service Commission’s decision in this case,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for SEIA. “Despite the overwhelming evidence that DTE failed to adequately consider alternatives, including a portfolio of renewable energy solutions that would lead to greater savings, more jobs, reduced risk, and environmental benefits, the Commission authorized a $1 billion plant that would not pass muster with Michigan’s laws if it were proposed today.”
“Why is it that Michigan ranks 32nd in the nation for installed solar capacity? It’s not the weather—even Minnesota has seven times more installed solar power than Michigan. And it’s not lack of demand for cheaper energy—Michigan electric utility rates are among the highest in the nation,” wrote Becky Stanfield, Vote Solar’s senior director of Western States.
Stanfield contended that the newly introduced bills would benefit Michigan in numerous ways: they would reduce electric costs, create jobs and reduce pollution. She added that the bills will support the wants of Michigan voters, more than 80 of whom say they want more solar energy.
“With zero fuel costs, we are now at the point where solar power is less expensive than power from fossil-fueled power plants,” Stanfield said. “While Michigan utilities have built a handful of solar projects in recent years, they are putting up roadblocks to independent solar development which could bring solar solutions to many more households and businesses across the state.”
Stanfield maintained that when consumers install rooftop solar the excess power they can send to the grid during peak reduces the need for costly new power plants, like the East China gas plant. “Instead of embracing the potential for customers to invest in a solar-powered grid, Michigan utilities are acting to minimize customer-driven solar markets from emerging. they become less dependent on the utility for energy,” she said.
The Energy Freedom package of bills, House Bills 5861-5865 were introduced by Gary Glenn (R-Williams Township), Rep. Yousef Rabhi, (D-Ann Arbor), Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) and Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland). The bills would do a number of things to improve solar in the state.
The package would remove the cap the state’s distributed generation program, which is currently capped at 0.5 percent of the utility’s customers. “The cap is one of the lowest in the nation and only serves to restrict the beneficial growth of solar in Michigan,” Stanfield said.
The Fair Value bills will ensure rooftop solar owners get a fair price for the excess energy they share with the grid. The bills also would provide a community solar garden option. The bills also would study and deploy microgrids to improve reliability and resilience for critical facilities. These would include places like hospitals and police stations, allowing them to operate during emergencies and power outages.Tweet