All the slide shows and presentations are handed in; advocates and opponents have made and rested their cases; and the state’s Solar Working Group has had its last meeting on the future of sun power in Michigan. Now it’s the Michigan Public Service Commission’s turn. MPSC staff have until June 10 to sort through piles of data and then draft a report suggesting ways the state’s top two utilities could help more customers install rooftop solar systems.
The SWG holds its last information-gathering meeting May 20 before the state issues a draft report in June that could recommend new ways to develop more customer-owned, rooftop solar power in Michigan. The meeting might be contentious: It features a presentation by the Edison Electric Institute, a national utility trade group that sees rooftop solar as an existential threat to their clients’ monopolies, and helps lead a multi-state attack on the technology.
As work group meetings continue, interviews with solar panel owners confirmed that they are glad they built their systems, but have suggestions for improving the utilities’ solar pilots and the state’s net metering rules.
Five years ago, when DTE Energy and Consumers Energy launched small pilot programs offering premium rates to customers for power from their solar panels, Oak Electric and Four Elements Energy became very busy installing solar systems on homes and small businesses. But, in 2012, the roof fell in for rooftop solar in Michigan, when the utilities significantly changed their pilots. That happened, installers said, because DTE’s Solar Currents and Consumers’ Experimental Advanced Renewables Program (EARP) drastically cut their rates for new participants, citing sharply falling solar panel prices.
About 40 energy experts gathered in Lansing last week for their second discussion about ways the state’s top utilities can spur more solar power development in Michigan, which is now well behind many other states in deploying the booming clean-energy technology.
The ruckus over renewables isn’t over: Proposal 3’s advocates sound even more determined to boost renewables goals beyond their current “10 percent by 2015” target and make Michigan a jobs-rich, global, renewables manufacturing leader. And on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder used his Special Message on Energy and the Environment to say he’s ready to start a conversation next year about resetting the goal for renewables.