Access to residential solar stymied by continued legislative inaction

During its Tuesday session, the Michigan Senate Energy Committee continued to delay urgently needed action that ensures small-scale solar has a future in Michigan.

The Committee unanimously approved two resolutions encouraging the Michigan Public Service Commission to undertake studies on integrating resident-owned generation options - such as rooftop solar - into the electric grid. 

The resolutions, however, do nothing to lift the cap Michigan currently has on small-scale solar, said Charlotte Jameson, program director at Michigan Environmental Council

“The Senate Energy Committee is effectively putting a pin in the chance to ensure small-scale solar companies are not driven out of business by an arbitrary limit on the number of people who can participate in our distributed generation program,” she said. “Projections show that we will soon hit the cap in UPPCO’s and Consumers Energy’s territories, causing the small-scale solar industry in those areas to ground to a halt.”

During the committee hearing several Republican and Democratic Senate Energy Committee members gave statements indicating that the resolutions are not sufficient. They voiced support for moving Rep. Sen. Ed McBroom’s Senate Bill 597 to address the cap despite no vote being held by the Committee on it. 

The Committee has already taken several weeks of testimony on the bill. It would lift the state’s 1% distributed generation cap so residents are not barred from connecting their rooftop solar system to the grid.

“Michigan has already lost 31,000 clean energy jobs since March due to COVID-19,” Jameson said. “Given the loss of jobs and the loss of clean energy benefits to Michiganders, we are disappointed that the Michigan Public Service Commission, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the legislature are not moving with more urgency to address this issue. We look forward to the studies’ results but hope that action to raise the cap isn’t forestalled.” 

The Committee’s resolutions come as demand for clean energy increases while costs for installation shrink. A 2019 Michigan Public Service Commission report found that participation in small-scale solar net metering increased by 57% in 2018.

As Jameson continues to work with the Senate Energy Committee on policies best for people and the environment, she is also continuing a decades-long tradition of representing Michigan residents as an intervener in Michigan Public Service Commission rate cases. 

MEC is currently working with other groups to lower Consumers Energy ratepayer electric bills while increasing small-scale solar profits.

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