Let the sunshine in, say lawmaker, industry & advocates
Whether from advocates, lawmakers or industry leaders, the message was the same at Tuesday evening's town hall: pointless restrictions on who can use solar energy must end.
Panelists of the event hosted by the Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan United each encouraged the passage of House Bill 4236. The bill, sponsored by 10 Republicans and three Democrats, would lift the cap on distributed generation. This would allow anyone to generate energy, like solar, on their business or property and get credit for any excess energy they send back to the grid.
“My wife and I enjoy the many days we are ‘off the grid,'" said Steve Prange, a solar owner from Commerce Township. "We are glad we supported a local renewable energy business and are reducing our impact on the environment. We would like other people in Michigan to have the same opportunity we had.”
Despite broad bipartisan and public support, Rep. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe) is keeping HB 4236 from moving as chair of the House Energy Committee.
"I want to make sure that the solar folks can have a market and make sure they have some security in that market," said Rep. John Roth (R-Traverse City), a cosponsor of the HB 4236. "I continue to push. I thought we were getting really close and was disappointed when everything kind of shut down."
There is currently a cap on the number of people who can get credit for distributed generation. Initially, no more than 1% of a utility's peak energy load could come from this energy method.
While some utilities have raised their distributed generation cap to 2% or 3% in response to demand, others haven't. That includes DTE Energy, which is actively trying to slash in half the credit residents receive for the excess energy they generate.
Mark Hagerty, president of Michigan Solar Solutions, said his company has weathered other solar hurdles, but the cap has forced him to diversify its services beyond solar installations because “I’ve got 52 employees with their families I’ve got worry about."
“The solar industry in Michigan is, at best, unpredictable," he said. "We cannot have a monopoly state that you do not have the ability to put solar on your roof.”
The town hall was the latest move in an organized effort to make HB 4236 law. Members of the cause include the Environmental Council, Michigan United, the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, Vote Solar, the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
Want to take action?
If you can, take a minute to leave a message for Rep. Bellino urging him to bring House Bill 4236 up for a vote by calling (517) 373-1530.
Here’s a script that you can use:
"Hello Representative Bellino, my name is ____ from [COMMUNITY]. I urge you to bring House Bill 4236 for a vote in the House Energy Committee. The bill will end Michigan’s needless solar cap, which is currently risking clean energy jobs and limiting our ability to choose solar energy for our homes and businesses. Lifting the cap is a common-sense, bipartisan solution with broad support, and there’s no legitimate reason to stall it. Thank you."
You can also send Rep. Bellino an email by filling out this form, courtesy of our ally Vote Solar: https://action.votesolar.org/a/scrap-the-solar-cap/?sourceid=1043320
Consider signing up for the Environmental Council's newsletter, Michigan United's newsletter or both. The Environmental Council will give you occasional Capitol environmental updates. Michigan United will give you occasional statewide justice updates. And we'll both give you updates on House Bill 4236 and related solar news.