Great Lakes Energy News

July 2019

Michigan Public Service Commission held a public hearing to allow rate-payers in southeast Michigan to comment on DTE’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Over 150 people turned out and the majority of speakers were not supportive of DTE’s proposal, mostly because DTE has not shown that it is serious about transitioning to renewable energy from coal and natural gas.  Other speakers commented on outages and the hardship caused by high electrical rates and the lack of compassion for lower income people by DTE.
GLREA was well represented at this hearing. Rob Rafson of Charthouse Energy spoke, as well as GLREA Board Member Ken Zebarah of Harvest Energy.  Rob Rafson said of the hearing, “I thought that the meeting was powerful.  I think this will help the Commissioners to understand what the concerns of customers are so that when they rule on cases they can take more care when deciding.”  GLREA lead the effort to get the PSC to hold this public hearing. GLREA wrote a letter to the PSC Chair Sally Talberg last December requesting that the MPSC hold a public hearing on a prior DTE rate case.  Our request was turned down, but Chairman Talberg said that they would hold a public hearing in the next case.
GLREA goal is to establish a precedent that for every rate case the PSC will hold a hearing in the area covered by the utility and to hold it in the evening so people that work can attend.  This public hearing was an excellent start in establishing more public awareness of what the PSC does and how it’s important to share our thoughts with the Commissioners on proposals by utilities.
Michigan News
Solar Property Tax Legislation has been passed by both the Michigan House and Senate. SB47 sponsored by Sen. Tom Barrett excludes residential solar systems from tax assessments and passed 36 to 0.  SB48 also sponsored by Sen. Tom Barrett modifies exemptions for alternative energy personal property and passed 36 to 0.   The comparable House bills HB 4069 (Rep. Kahle) and HB 4465 (Rep. Rabhi) passed 106 to 3 and 107 to 2 respectively. It is expected that Governor Whitmer will sign the legislation.
Gov. Whitmer has announced that participants in the state’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program can add solar panels to their land. The MDARD program provides tax incentives to property that block non-agricultural development for a minimum of 10 years. Wind turbines and cell phone towers were allowed to be placed on land in the program, but farmers had to end their contracts with the state before entering into solar leases. Ending the agreement early meant repaying the last 7 years of tax credits with 6% interest. Sites that add solar panels must meet pollinator habitat standards designed by MSU researchers. More details
Consumers Energy’s integrated resource plan  (Case No. U-20165) has been approved by the MPSC.  IRPs outline how a company will meet the electric needs of its customers for the next 5, 10 and 15 years. Consumers’ IRP changes the way Consumers conducts its business by using competitive bidding for future energy supplies. Consumers can own up to half of all the future additional capacity that it procures through competitive bidding and it must buy the remaining electricity through power purchase agreements with third parties. It also moves the company away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources and programs to cut energy waste.  The plan retires coal Units 1 and 2 at the D.E. Karn Plant near Bay City in 2023 and includes 1,200 MW of new solar energy from 2019-21.  Consumers will file a new IRP in June 2021.
Habitat for Humanity of Michigan affiliates have begun adhering to a construction principle known as zero net energy, which means a building produces as much energy as it uses. Affiliates in Traverse City, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo are at different stages of completing zero net energy projects, taking Habitat’s high-efficiency standards to the “next level.” The Depot Neighborhood in Traverse City (see photo above), completed in 2014, includes 10 homes equipped with rooftop solar, capable of producing more power than the homes consume. More details
MPSC issued an order on June 7 on Consumers Energy’s interconnection standards and timelines. The MPSC decided not to waive several deadlines for the interconnection application process for solar projects.  The order spares Michigan solar developers from additional delays.  Read more about the background of this interconnection issue in this blog post from Michigan EIBC published before the MPSC decision.
Electric Vehicle Bill Package has been introduced in the Michigan House. The bipartisan package would help remove barriers to charging and support the development of a statewide charging network. HB 4786 creates an Electric Vehicle Council to develop a statewide charging infrastructure plan. HB 4787 allows the state to install or lease space for EV charging stations at state park and rides.  HB 4788 allows the state to install or lease space for EV charging stations in state parks. HB 4789 creates tax incentives for small businesses and multi-unit housing to install EV charging stations. More details
Dr. Brandy Brown has been named the Michigan Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s  (EGLE) climate and energy advisor.  Brown will lead the Office of Climate and Energy. Brown joins EGLE from CLEAResult in East Lansing where she formulated strategic objectives for EV’s, PV’s, and battery storage and developed CLEAResult’s five-year strategic plan for Advanced Mobility.
Microgrid Legislation that would allow the formation of small electric grids to serve critical facilities like hospitals, police or fire stations, water or sewage treatment plants, correctional facilities, senior residential homes, among others, has attracted the support of a coalition of environmentalists and conservatives who favor greater energy choice but the opposition of the state's utilities. Microgrids would likely include solar generation and battery storage. The House Energy Committee took testimony on June 19. Sponsor Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland Twp.) believes the bill will protect public service facilities in case an attack or disaster shuts down the electric grid. Utilities were concerned that the legislation would bar them from charging standby rates to microgrids.
Beyond Michigan
U.S. Trade Representative has said in a notice that it’s granting an exemption to solar duties for bifacial panels, ones that can generate power on both sides. The carve-out is a win for both Asian manufacturers including JinkoSolar, LG Electronics, and Hanwha Q Cells and big U.S. solar farm developers that can easily switch over to using them.  “This could insulate almost the entire utility-scale market from tariffs,” BloombergNEF solar analyst Hugh Bromley said. “I would expect the utility-scale industry to pivot almost 100% to bifacial products.”  More details
New York has passed SB 6599 committing the state to get 70% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2030, the highest target of any state by that year, and then 100% carbon-free power by 2040. Last year, New York got about a quarter of its electricity from renewables, almost all of it hydro. Nuclear provides 32%, a share likely to drop as aging nuclear plants are retired.
Largest Proposed Battery System in the world is buried in a Bureau of Land Management draft environmental impact statement for a large proposed solar development in the Nevada desert northeast of Las Vegas. A description of the 690 MW Gemini Solar project notes an upgrade to the battery storage portion of the project, detailing plans for installation of 425 battery systems – with each individual system sized at 5 MWH of 4-hour duration energy storage. That would amount to a 531 MW/ 2,125 MWH battery system.  More details
New Jersey Utility Regulators have awarded a contract for an offshore wind farm that would be the largest in the country.  The 1100 MW project is being led by Orsted, a Norwegian energy company.  The project called Ocean Wind tops the 800 MW Vineyard Wind project in Mass. set to begin construction late this year. If both projects stay on schedule, Vineyard would go online in 2022 and Ocean Wind would follow in 2024.
Chicago’s Bronzeville Microgrid Project is demonstrating the social justice benefits of decentralized energy with the completion this month of solar installations on 660 residential units in the Dearborn Homes Community.  The project, a partnership of Commonwealth Edison, developer VLV Development Solutions and the Chicago Housing Authority, also provides numerous opportunities for ComEd to learn about solar, storage, inverters and controllers in microgrids. For VLV Development, the effort is the first in what the company hopes will be a series of low-income solar housing projects linked to microgrids. The company’s goal is to develop 50 MW of solar-plus-storage for at-risk residents, one microgrid in each of the 50 Chicago wards.  More details
What’s New in Michigan’s Solar Laws webinar, hosted by Michigan Energy Options, will be held on July 26, 10:00-10:45 am. Margarethe Kearney, attorney for Environmental Law & Policy Center, will cover changes in solar laws, from the state to the local level.  Registration will open after June 28.
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.
Community Solar – “Like” webinar, hosted by Michigan Energy Options, will be held on Sept. 19, 10:00-10:45 am. Marta Tomic, Vote Solar’s Community Solar Program Director, will offer insights into a few community solar – “like” models from around the country.  Registration will open after July 26.
3rd Annual Sustainable Detroit Forum will be held on Oct. 23, 9:00 am-5:00 pm at Cobo Hall.  If you or someone you know is interested in sharing a project or story pertinent to the City of Detroit, they are accepting applications for presenters until July 19.
More details
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