The debate among state lawmakers over how best to update Michigan’s renewable energy policies reveals a stark difference. Some in Lansing are loath to actually require our monopoly utilities to add more renewables or help customers cut energy waste. But others insist that only strong legislation that forces utilities to provide additional clean energy will get the job done. History favors the pragmatists.
A bipartisan group of state representatives has introduced four bills, known as the Energy Freedom package that would allow Michiganders to invest more in solar, wind, or methane-powered generation; reap a better return; and share credit for the electricity they produce. Different combinations of 12 Democrats and five Republicans are sponsoring different parts of the package, marking a shift in the Michigan Legislature.
What if a profitable monopoly with an unshakable grip on its customers refused all pleas to establish a program that, cost free, would create lots of good jobs in Michigan and aid the rise of a crucial global industry here? That’s Michigan’s situation, thanks to DTE Energy and Consumers Energy’s regrettable reluctance to renew and expand their rooftop solar programs.
Four months of meetings have failed to produce an agreement among state regulators, solar energy advocates, and the state’s top two utilities about expanding the companies’ highly popular customer-owned rooftop solar programs.
Solar advocates and staff from Michigan’s two largest utilities are mulling over a draft report that suggests ways the state could start catching up with the nation’s accelerating, jobs-rich boom in roof-top solar energy without raising customers’ rates significantly, if at all. Michigan Public Service Commission officials released the draft, which summarizes the work of the agency’s Solar Working Group, to group members on June 10 for their technical comments.
Representatives of Michigan’s two largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, made their first presentation to the state’s solar work group, and expressed little enthusiasm for expanding the use of customer-generated, jobs-producing, clean solar energy.