Michigan lawmakers advance bills to abandon clean energy standards

Driven by Republican support, Michigan lawmakers advanced a pair of comprehensive energy bills Wednesday that seek to put more restrictions on the state’s electric choice program and limit clean energy standards.

SB 438, which passed the Senate Energy and Technology Committee 7-3 along party lines, would hold a 10 percent renewable energy standard “floor” going forward and phase out Michigan’s successful energy efficiency program by 2021. The bill establishes a 35 percent clean energy goal by 2025, which would include energy efficiency and an expanded definition of renewable energy to include incineration.

Proposed amendments backed by Democrats to increase the state’s RPS to 15 percent and 20 percent failed, as did a proposal to extend the efficiency standard to 2025.

“I think we missed a golden opportunity here to build on very successful 2008 energy legislation and bring more parties on board to build support,” said Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood.

The bill does not, however, eliminate the state’s solar net metering program in favor of a “buy-all, sell-all” model where generators would buy their electricity from a utility and reimburse at roughly wholesale rates. That proposal originally drew fierce criticism from clean energy advocates. Though some changes were made for net metering provisions, existing participants would be grandfathered in under the existing system.

SB 437 would maintain Michigan’s 10 percent cap on customers who can participate in electric choice, but place greater restrictions on alternative energy suppliers to provide capacity and on customers who participate. The bill passed 6-1, with pro-deregulation Republican Sen. Mike Shirkey voting against it, saying the provisions will effectively kill Michigan’s choice program. Three Democrats abstained from voting.

The bill also establishes a detailed integrated resource plan process that is meant to replace the state’s clean energy standards adopted in 2008.

Major investor-owned utilities DTE Energy and Consumers Energy publicly supported both bills, as did Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum said while SB 437 and 438 move “in the right direction,” the group remains opposed.

“We’re concerned that repealing the RPS without any additional commitments to renewable energy is going to stall the progress that Michigan has made as a national leader in renewable energy,” MCEF executive director Larry Ward said in a statement.

Originally proposed last year, the bills are sponsored by Republican Sens. Mike Nofs and John Proos, who chair and co-chair the Senate energy committee, respectively. The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

A separate House energy policy package was voted out of committee last year but has yet to see a full floor vote.

3 thoughts on “Michigan lawmakers advance bills to abandon clean energy standards

  1. Looking through the 4/28 summary of SB437 and SB438, it looks like net metering is still being gutted, though the language is even more confusing.

    “A customer participating in the distributed generation program would have to purchase from
    the electric utility or AES at the applicable retail electricity rates and charges all of the imputed
    customer usage. Under the program, electricity generated by an eligible generator during a
    billing period would have to offset power supply charges at the variable power supply portion
    of the retail rate for electricity up to the imputed customer usage for that customer during
    that billing period. (“Imputed customer usage” would mean the amount of electricity that is
    consumed by a distributed generation customer during a billing period and is calculated as
    the sum of the metered on-site generation and the net of the bidirectional flow of power
    across the customer interconnection during the billing period.)”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this says that you pay for all electricity used on site, then receive a partial credit on generation.

  2. The way I read this – and I could be wrong – you pay the local utility the difference between wholesale and retail rates for all energy YOU produce and use… So even if you produce all of what you need and use, you still receive a bill. Ostensibly, that bill is there to insure the reliability of energy – but if any thing has ever proven to improve reliability, it’s having many, many, many sources so that if one fails there are multiple sources of backup. Those backups are provided by the multiple smaller generators – not from a single plant that is owned by a monopoly. Therefore, by nature, this legislation seeks to at least limit, if not eliminate the small producers, to the detriment of all… Except the monopolies.

  3. You are reading an older summary of the bill.

    The S-4 substitute voted out yesterday replaced the “imputed customer usage” calculation with a “grid usage charge” to be determined by the MPSC.

    You can find the most recent version of the legislation here:

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(4tunjjjgvjv5vkqv4jhfogbs))/documents/2015-2016/billcurrentversion/Senate/PDF/2015-SCVBS-0438-12361.PDF

    However, it is still subject to further changes as the bills move to the full Senate, and still have to be reconciled with the House’s version (which originally did not touch net metering).

    But in any case, I think there are several larger and more consequential issues than net metering, which has been controversial but still fairly limited in Michigan.