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Rooftop Solar Heating Up

Solar energy, whether collected at a large industrial array, on a single rooftop, or—coming soon to Michigan neighborhoods—in community “solar gardens,” already is and will continue to be an important part of Michigan’s “all of the above” approach to energy.

As with any fuel source—and any method of using it—there are important considerations to keep in mind so that everyone is treated fairly and energy remains reliable for everyone.

What Is Rooftop Solar?

Rooftop solar—also known as a form of “distributed generation”—is exactly what it sounds like: solar panels on the roof of an individual home or business. 

These customers generate and consume electricity for themselves during daylight hours, and at times, are able to sell excess power back to their local energy providers through the electric grid.

When they are not able to produce enough energy to meet their needs, such as at night or on days when there is not adequate sunlight, rooftop solar customers purchase supplemental electricity from their local energy providers using the electric grid.

The bottom line is, rooftop solar customers are connected to the electric grid 24 hours a day and they use it just like consumers who don’t have their own solar panels.

Net Metering: Getting Rooftop Solar Right

Rooftop solar in and of itself can be a good thing, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the policies governing it impact every energy consumer in Michigan.  

Net metering policy—the laws that allow rooftop solar customers to buy and sell electricity via the grid—are in need of an upgrade to ensure fairness.  Currently, local energy providers are required to purchase electricity from rooftop solar customers at full retail value.  That means these consumers don’t fully share the cost of maintaining our state’s electric infrastructure, even though they use it.  Who makes up the difference?  Traditional consumers who don’t have their own rooftop solar panels.

This “cost-shifting” creates a fundamentally unfair imbalance in which some consumers are subsidizing rooftop solar customers’ ability to have solar panels and use the shared energy infrastructure too.

The Big Picture

Michigan’s rooftop solar laws were put in place almost a decade ago (in 2008) to help kick-start the use of solar panels—and they worked. But maintaining the subsidy indefinitely is not appropriate or necessary.

Consumer fairness is one of AMP’s foundational principles when it comes to Michigan’s energy future, and we believe Michigan lawmakers need to update these laws so they meet two key fairness objectives:

  • Customers with rooftop solar should be fairly compensated for the energy they sell back to power companies
  • The cost of maintaining the grid should be shared fairly among everyone who uses it, traditional consumers and rooftop solar customers alike

It’s more than possible to achieve both of these aims.  Because the grid is a shared resource, it’s only fair that everyone share in the cost of keeping it strong, up-to-date, and reliable for the long term.

Let us know what you think about net metering!