Utilities and solar companies compete for the future of solar energy | Michigan

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(The Center Square) – Two groups want the Michiganders to have a choice of using more solar panels, but both claim their option is better.

Representative Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, told the House Energy Committee that half of Michiganders cannot access solar panels due to construction restrictions or financial barriers.

Hoitenga’s plan, Bill 4716, would allow community solar projects where customers can subscribe and receive a credit on their utility bills for their share of the electricity produced at one location. Her plan, she claims, would allow government, churches and schools to share a solar community.

The bill seeks to require an electricity supplier to apply a bill credit to a subscriber’s monthly electricity bill for the production of a community solar installation attributable to that subscriber during the previous month.

“This is a common sense, bipartisan issue that will increase energy choice, save consumers money, create jobs and investment, and strengthen Michigan’s energy grid and that is why I sponsored this legislation, ”Hoitenga said.

House invoice (HB) 4715 aims to require the Michigan Public Service Commission, within one year of the bill’s effective date, to enact rules for a community solar subscription system for bill credits. The bill aims to ensure that low-income households can access solar energy subscription, oblige electricity providers to effectively connect community solar installations to the electricity distribution grid and not discriminate against them, and ensure the portability of subscriptions within the same service territory of the electricity supplier. .

Hood Rep. D-Grand Rapids called the bill a “game changer” for the environment as well as for residents who could save credit while still allowing consumers to choose their preferred energy and save money. increase income from the tax base.

Michigan utilities DTE Energy and Consumers Energy objected to the bills.

Sarah Nielsen, executive director of transportation, renewable energy and storage at Consumers, said bills don’t prioritize affordability and reliability, but utility solar programs do.

“The proposed bills require all other utility customers to subsidize unregulated companies in the form of bill credit,” Nielsen said. “This invoice credit is in no way linked to market prices. In fact, the value is not defined and could exceed the total utility bill of that subscriber customer, which also covers the cost of cabling.

For example, she said a recently implemented Lansing solar garden partnership through Consumers saves users up to $ 200 per year on energy bills.

However, Michigan Energy Conservation Forum executive director Ed Rivet said large-scale utility-run solar farms may be cheaper, but they don’t enter niches where people want solar power. .

Rivet said bills were the best way for small customers to harness solar power, fending off utilities who claimed bills would increase the cost of small-scale projects and be subsidized by non-solar taxpayers.

“It’s impossible to say that they are going to offer these discounts to low income customers and that someone else will not pay the subsidy,” Rivet said. “There is no free lunch.”

Hearing follows Michigan State University to study who found that solar expansion would bring $ 1.5 billion to the economy over 30 years and create 18,500 jobs. However, solar panels can pose ethical sourcing issues, as much of the sourcing is created overseas with lax worker protection. On May 14, the BBC reported that China’s Xinjiang region, which produces 45% of the world’s supply of polysilicon, a key component of solar panels, uses slave labor to produce solar panels.

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