Great Lakes Energy News

June 2019

Zero Net Energy (ZNE) conference was held at Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids on May 8. The event on how to achieve “zero net energy” performance in residential buildings quickly sold out with more than 80 people in attendance.  The conference was organized and cosponsored by GLREA, GreenHome Institute, Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Assoc., and Michigan Geothermal Energy Assoc. Together these groups and allies are partnering to educate their collective membership and others about how to achieve ZNE—whether in new construction or major renovations.  Seen above are speakers at the event (L to R): Dale Neville and Mark Lee from Better World Builders; Patrick O'Boyle from Michigan Saves; Bali Kumar from Lean & Green Michigan; MEECA executive director David Gard.  All sessions from the residential ZNE event on May 8th can be viewed by visiting this website.  Mark your calendars for a Commercial ZNE Event in Detroit on September 18th
Michigan News
DTE’s New Distributed Generation Program has been approved by the MPSC as part of DTE’s broader $273 million rate increase. It’s the first program approved for utility customers as Michigan transitions from traditional net metering.  The new program began May 9 for DTE customers, while existing net metering customers and those who file before May 9 will be grandfathered for 10 years from the date of their initial enrollment. A major issue was the compensation for customers who send excess power back to the grid. Traditional net metering credits bills at the full retail rate of power. DTE proposed compensating customers at the wholesale rate of power, along with a roughly $15 monthly fee. The MPSC denied the company’s request to assess the monthly system access charge.  Clean energy groups have maintained that a monthly fee cannot be justified and the retail rate for credits is fair.  The MPSC landed roughly in the middle, approving an inflow/outflow mechanism that credits customers at the power supply component of the retail rate minus transmission charges, or 7.5 cents/kWh.  For a standard residential installation, the MPSC expects a $15,700 installation payback to take 13.3 years. The same system under net metering would take 9.4 years, while DTE’s original proposal would have taken 17.7 years. MPSC Issue Brief
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Solar Property Tax Legislation is moving ahead. The Senate Finance Committee voted out unanimously 7 to 0 for both Senate Bill 47 and Senate 48. The bills now go to the Senate Floor. Identical bills were already voted out of the House Taxation Committee and now are in the House Ways and Means Committee. 
Microgrid Legislation, HB 4477, has been introduced by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers.  HB 4477, sponsored by state Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, aims to build grid resilience by allowing customers who generate their own power to disconnect from the grid during outages. The bill establishes protocols for disconnecting from the main electric grid and would enable the use of microgrids for critical facilities like hospitals, police stations, shelters and water treatment plants. More details
DOE’s Solar in Your Community Challenge was a $5 million prize competition designed to incentivize new approaches to increase solar adoption across America. The challenge ran from May 2017 to October 2018.  In the Low-Income Empowerment category, Solar Destination Ypsilanti team was recognized for deploying over 600 kW of solar, with 44% of it benefiting LMI. Local residents were trained to install solar and worked on projects. In the Faith-Based Communities category, Solar Faithful of Ann Arbor team was recognized for creating a tool kit with instructional materials about solar power.  More details
PSI Repair Services, Livonia-based service provider to the wind energy industry, has recently surpassed 40,000 repaired wind turbine parts, following a busy 2018.  PSI offers component repair and engineering services for GE, Vestas, Gamesa, Siemens, RePower, Acciona, Suzlon, Nordex, Mitsubishi, and Clipper wind turbines. More details
Consumers Energy’s New Contract with a wood-burning power plant in NE Michigan has been approved by the MPSC.  Hillman Power Co. and Viking Energy have sold power made from biomass to Consumers Energy for years and have been negotiating new contracts with the utility. Viking Power has reached a new, eight-year deal to continue its sales to Consumers, but talks between Hillman Power, Consumers and the MPSC are still ongoing.  More details
Recent Survey of nearly 800 solar companies across the country spotlighted a lack of diversity in the industry’s workforce. Companies that responded reported their employees being 74% male and 73% white.  In Michigan, Chart House Energy founder Rob Rafson hopes his company is helping to change that by committing to local hiring for projects built in federal Opportunity Zones which provide up to 15% tax relief for projects in low- and middle-income areas.  Investors can defer taxes on capital gains. Chart House is capturing the tax benefits from an Opportunity Zone solar project in Ypsilanti, while others are under development in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Flint. More details
On May 23, MPSC issued an Order that increased the cap on Upper Peninsula Power Co.’s (UPPCO) net metering/distributed generation program from 1% to 2% of its average peak demand.  UPPCO’s previous 1% cap was maxed out in 2016 for “Category 1” installations (under 20 kW).  The Michigan PSC’s cap increase is spread among different installation sizes: 1% for Category 1, 0.5% for Category 2 (between 20 kW and up to 150 kW) and 0.5% for Category 3 (methane digesters between 150 kW and up to 550 kW).
Beyond Michigan
Global Transition to 100% Renewable Energy is possible across the electricity, heat, transport and desalination sectors by 2050, and it can be done cheaper a new study claims. The study from Energy Watch Group and LUT University of Finland outlines a path to a 1.5 degree C future without nuclear power or carbon capture and sequestration.  Solar and wind power are “the new workhorses of the future” with solar making up 69% of total energy supply requiring a total installed capacity of 63,400 GW.  Wind energy would make up 18% of the mix with bioenergy, hydropower, and geothermal accounting for most of the rest. The future scenario sees 9 million coal mining jobs phased out, but more than 15 million new jobs in renewable energy.  The future is also slightly cheaper costing 53 Euros/MWH by 2050, compared to 54 Euros/MWH in 2015. More details
Byron Bay Railroad Company’s 100% solar-powered train is super efficient, requiring 8.33 watt-hours per passenger kilometer, even with frequent stop–starting. With a 6.5 kW rooftop solar array and a 77 kWh lithium-ion battery on board, in peak solar hours, the train is effectively 100% self-powered. The Australian train was brought into service in late 2017, and has operated perfectly since then. The train runs a simple 3 km route (taking just under 10 minutes). With the help of gentle acceleration, modest cruising speeds, and a bit of regenerative braking, the total energy used for the 6 km round trip is only 5 kWh.  More details
U.P. Energy Summit will be held on June 14, 8:00-4:15 at Northern Michigan University.  A variety of updates and industry perspectives will include the three MPSC commissioners who will be on a panel together to share their perspectives.  More details.
IEEE Transportation Electrification Conference & Expo (ITEC) will be held in Novi on June 19-21.  ITEC'19 is aimed at helping the industry in the transition from conventional vehicles to advanced electrified vehicles. The conference is focused on all types of electrified transportation, including electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as well as heavy-duty, rail, and off-road vehicles and airplanes and ships.
Community Forum in Detroit on June 20 has been announced by the MPSC and will provide an opportunity for DTE Electric customers to comment on the utility's long-term energy resource plans.  MPSC Chairman Sally Talberg said it is important for the Commission to hear from residents about DTE Electric’s integrated resource plan (Case No. U-20471), as well as talk with commissioners and MPSC staff. Talberg will be joined by Commissioners Norman Saari and Daniel Scripps on June 20, for two sessions (4-5:30 p.m. and 5:45-7 p.m.) at Frank Hayden Community Room, Wayne County Community College District – Downtown Campus, 1001 West Fort Street, Detroit. 
Michigan Environmental Council is holding a Grand Rapids Clean Energy Forum on June 28 to talk about the current status of renewable energy in Michigan. More details.
SOLAR 2019 Conference “Race to Renewables” will be held on August 5-9 in Minneapolis.  ASES believes that supplying 100% of America’s electricity with renewable energy is not only possible but urgently needed.  ASES represents the scientists, educators, and activists who can provide technologies and solutions for climate action that will have an impact within the next five years.  SOLAR 2019 will focus on those strategies.
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