A group of Michigan lawmakers introduced legislation they are calling the “Powering Michigan Forward” package to secure incentives for private solar in our state. Despite the misleading title, these bills would move Michigan backward, not forward, when it comes to renewable energy.
Along with “community solar” legislation that was introduced in September, these bills fundamentally conflict with the smart, bipartisan approaches that have made Michigan a national leader in clean and renewable energy development.
AMP will be exploring in greater detail what these misleading policies could mean for Michigan in the coming weeks, but here is a quick snapshot of six key things everyone should know:
Other states that have adopted similar policies have failed to balance the demand for more renewable energy with the need for energy to remain affordable. In Minnesota, consumers saw proposed price spikes of more than 100% due to the subsidies going to community solar projects. The cost shift was so great that state regulators had to step in to fix the problem! In California, consumers without private solar will pay an extra $1.1 billion. Louisiana has recently moved away from net metering because it resulted in $2 million per year in extra costs for non-solar consumers.
Small renewable energy sources that are distributed across the grid require substantial investments to maintain reliability. California, Hawaii, and other states are seeing the unfortunate outcome of inadequate funding for critical energy infrastructure. They are seeing not only reduced energy reliability but also substantially weakened grids and safety risks.
The sponsors themselves acknowledge that these policies are designed to promote private solar ahead of other solutions, even though other solutions might be better suited for Michigan’s energy needs. Creating incentives for a particular industry through utility rates does not protect consumers’ interests and will ultimately distort the market rather than encouraging all energy sources to compete on a level playing field. By picking one winner among competing energy sources, Lansing would also be picking winners and losers among consumers based on who has the means to invest in private solar and who doesn’t.
These policies will unnecessarily shift costs from some energy consumers to others, allowing a select few to avoid paying their fair share. Those who are most likely to be burdened with additional energy costs include many Michiganders who can least afford it. The proposed policies will exaggerate this inequity over time as Michigan integrates even more renewable energy into the grid.
However unintended, these policy approaches come with real consumer protection concerns. Private solar companies are not subject to the same levels of oversight and accountability that Michigan’s regulated utilities are, which can expose consumers to misleading sales tactics, questionable installation practices, and misinformation on billing structures, maintenance requirements, and potential savings, as well as hidden costs and safety concerns for residents and communities alike.
When it comes to renewable energy, size matters. Private solar is significantly less efficient than universal solar at increasing renewable energy across Michigan. At the same time, it has greater financial cost, as well as hidden environmental costs. These policies run counter to the comprehensive approaches that have helped Michigan expand clean and renewable energy so quickly over the past 10 years.
Michigan has adopted a comprehensive, bipartisan approach to meeting our state’s energy needs. We all must work together to achieve reliable, affordable, clean energy that is accessible over the long term. As we integrate more renewables into our energy supply, our policies should remain aligned with that comprehensive approach.
If you agree these policies are bad for Michigan, please share our blog with your friends, neighbors, and colleagues.