July 02, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2014
David Jakubiak, (312) 795-3713, djakubiak [at] elpc.org
Alison Flowers, (303) 246-6297, alison.flowers [at] sierraclub.org
Andy McGlashen, (517) 420-1908, andrew [at] environmentalcouncil.org
Report: Michigan Ripe for Solar Energy Boom
Larger Utility Programs Would Expand Renewable Energy without Increased Costs
LANSING –Michigan utilities could dramatically expand their solar energy programs without increasing costs for customers, according to a report issued by Michigan Public Service Commission staff this week.
The final report of the commission’s Solar Working Group concludes a five-month process during which representatives of utilities, business groups and clean energy advocates examined the state of solar in Michigan and explored options to improve and expand DTE Energy and Consumers Energy’s pilot solar programs. The group also was asked to look at community solar options for Michigan utilities.
“The past five years have shown tremendous demand for Michigan’s largest utilities to provide more solar options for their customers, and tremendous success in generating clean, solar energy in Michigan,” said Allan O’Shea, owner of Contractors Building Supply, a longtime solar panel installation firm in Copemish, Mich. “The only thing holding us back is that the programs expire next year, and DTE and Consumers are dragging their feet on expanding and improving the programs they offer.”
With less than 20 megawatts of installed solar power, Michigan currently has less solar energy than Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois.
The group found that this lack of solar is not due to a lack of demand. Since implementing small solar energy programs in 2009 both DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have experienced demand for these programs that has vastly outstripped resources. Both utilities have kept their solar programs small, despite having collected millions of dollars from customers to advance renewable energy.
“The market for solar development in Michigan is being artificially stifled by the large utilities’ continued insistence on underfunding popular programs,” said Sarah Mullkoff, energy program director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “Even now, utilities have millions of dollars that have been collected to advance renewable energy, but those dollars are being locked out of the economy.”
The group found that expanding solar programs would increase jobs in installation, engineering and manufacturing. Additional solar energy would also help offset strains on Michigan’s power grid by having maximum output when demand is at its highest levels.
“The benefits of solar energy do not only go to the person with solar panels on their house,” said Bradley Klein, senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The benefits of solar are spread across the grid. Solar keeps peak prices down and it reduces the need to burn polluting coal. It creates jobs and strengthens the grid, and most importantly the people of Michigan want more solar.”
The commission has said it will use the report to shape and inform review of future utility solar programs.
“Michiganders are ready for DTE and Consumers Energy to expand their solar choices,” said Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Director. “The more than 1,800 people who signed petitions in support of Michigan moving forward with more solar is just the tip of the iceberg, and sends a strong signal to the Public Service Commission that now is the time to act.”