An infrared image from an energy audit. (Photo by prc1333 via Creative Commons)
There’s at least one bipartisan piece of legislation moving through Michigan’s lame-duck session: A streamlined loan program for residential customers looking to install renewable energy or efficiency systems on their property.
The Municipal Utility Residential Clean Energy Program Act is modeled after the state’s Property Assessed Clean Energy financing law of 2010, bringing to homeowners a similar loan program that until now has only been available to commercial and industrial property owners.
However, the law would apply only to residential customers of municipal utilities — about 260,000 households, according to the Michigan Municipal Utility Association. The law would apply to residents in cities such as Lansing and Traverse City after local governing board approval.
“It gets down to the fact that energy efficiency is common sense: It reduces energy waste and saves money,” said Jack Schmitt, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “This legislation allows for and promotes greater opportunities for energy efficiency throughout Michigan.”
The flag of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Though recognized just last week by the White House, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has been active in climate change mitigation and adaptation since the “beginning of time.”
“The things we do for economic and cultural resilience are the same things we do for climate resilience,” said Kathleen Brosemer, the Sault Tribe’s environmental program manager.
Whether it’s energy conservation or growing an independent, local food supply, “These are things that make us more robust for changes that come down at us. We’ve been doing it forever. Now there’s a realization that there are things we need to do to reduce the impacts of climate change and build our ability to cope with changes that are coming,” she said.
(Photo by Eric via Creative Commons)
Depending on who you ask, Michigan’s customer choice law for electric service is either too limited or doesn’t go far enough. And the debate will very likely be revived in the legislature next year.
The question is whether the state will move back to a fully deregulated market (as it was from 2001 to 2008), eliminate any form of customer choice or maintain a percentage cap with revisions.
Michigan’s choice law, which has a 10 percent cap on customers who can participate, is seen by some as the reason behind an energy crisis in the U.P., as well as a potential roadblock for dealing with a projected capacity shortfall in coming years.
But deregulation supporters, who believe all ratepayers should be able to choose their electricity suppliers and allow competition to drive down rates, dispute both of these claims. They point to Michigan’s comparatively high rates in the Midwest and the thousands of customers waiting in line to exercise electric choice, but can’t because the cap is filled.
This story was updated to include comments from MISO.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has delayed a proposed cost-allocation structure that would leave Upper Peninsula residents paying tens of millions of dollars annually to keep an aging coal plant open in Marquette.
In its ruling Friday, the FERC directed the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, to provide more information about its payment methods to keep the We Energies’ Presque Isle Power Plant open under a System Support Resource agreement. The cost increases were scheduled to take effect today.
The Michigan Public Service Commission announced this week that it will be the first state energy agency in the country to use Property Assessed Clean Energy financing for efficiency projects at its new headquarters.
The agency will lease the building from a private owner, who has agreed to finance just under $500,000 for LED lighting, a 20 kW solar array and variable speed motors for heating and cooling.
The property owner, Saginaw Plaza Ltd., will receive a 20-year fixed-rate loan that will be paid for through the MPSC’s energy savings. It’s anticipated that the building will save more in reduced energy consumption than the cost of the loan.
“The commission thought it would be a good idea to set an example when it comes to energy efficiency,” MPSC spokeswoman Judy Palnau said.
Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas are split across different MISO resource zones. Some state officials want to unify the state into a single zone. (Image via MISO)
Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas are distinct regions in many ways — from geography to accents to preference for sports teams (“Yoopers” tend to favor the Green Bay Packers, downstaters root for the Detroit Lions).
Michigan also is essentially two states when it comes to energy markets. The U.P. depends heavily on electricity generated in Wisconsin (simply because of geography) with Wisconsin ratepayers picking up part of the tab for powering mining operations and other needs in Michigan.
But the expansion of mining and the uncertain future of the region’s largest coal-fired power plant have lit a new fire under a long-simmering debate about potentially uniting the Upper and Lower peninsulas into one power market and distribution system within the Mid-Continent Independent System Operator (MISO) regional transmission organization.
Currently the two peninsulas are in separate “local resource zones” within MISO, which are used to calculate adequate reliability across MISO’s footprint.
Moving the U.P. into the same zone as the Lower Peninsula could help clarify the state’s energy future and address a brewing energy crisis in the U.P.
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell speaks at a benefit in 2009. (Photo by Steven Depolo via Creative Commons)
Grand Rapids, Michigan Mayor George Heartwell is counting down the days until he has to leave office: “419 days, seven hours and 20 minutes,” he smiled at the end of an interview last week.
But it’s not for a desire to leave — in a local election this month, voters approved term limits for citywide elected officials, leaving Heartwell as a lame duck in 2015. He will have served 12 years on the job.
Heartwell, 65, sat down with Midwest Energy News to talk about his time in the mayor’s office, a part-time job in a weak-mayor system that gives most policy control to a board of commissioners.
Yet Heartwell has elevated the city as a model for sustainability, renewable energy and energy efficiency. It includes an aggressive 100-percent renewable energy goal by 2020 (it’s at 25 percent now) and an entire city lighting system comprised of LEDs.
During his time in office, the United Nations recognized the city as a “Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development” (one of two in the U.S.) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce named it the most sustainable city in the country in 2010.
A postcard from the now-closed K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Michigan, which will be home to a new biomass plant. (Image by Donald Harrison via Creative Commons)
Developers from metro Detroit have plans to build a $100 million, 34 MW biomass plant in the central Upper Peninsula, about 20 miles south of an aging coal plant that is the ongoing focus of the region’s energy crisis.
The company building the plant, Marquette Green Energy LLC, says it would run on a combination of biomass and tire-derived fuels and a smaller amount of natural gas to start. The developers say it’s a step forward as the region scrambles to figure out how to avoid major rate increases in the short term and build new generation for the long term.
“I call it stealth development,” said Barry Bahrman, a partner in the project and a fifth-generation Upper Peninsula native. “It’s developed to a point now when we can let people know there’s part of an answer in place. … Local generation is what the U.P. needs.”
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Wisconsin Energy Corp.’s chief executive said the company is “willing to be an investor” in a new power plant to help alleviate a generation capacity shortfall in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
CEO Gale Klappa made the comment Wednesday during an earnings conference call in answer to questions about whether the unfolding crisis in upper Michigan could affect Wisconsin Energy’s ability to win approval from Michigan regulators for the buyout of Integrys Energy Group.
Klappa said that the company remains engaged in talks with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and state Attorney General Bill Schuette on a “global solution” to the Upper Peninsula’s energy woes, and that a solution could be agreed on within 60 to 90 days.
Valerie Brader, an advisor to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, addresses the Upper Peninsula Energy Summit in Marquette. (Photo by Shawn Malone for Midwest Energy News)
MARQUETTE — Let Michigan decide its own energy future. That’s the message industry leaders and state officials drove home Tuesday at the Upper Peninsula Energy Summit in Marquette, Michigan.
The message was set against a backdrop of federal regulatory decisions that could drastically increase electricity bills for Upper Peninsula ratepayers. More than 20 proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission involve the fate of the coal-fired Presque Isle Power Plant here and how much ratepayers in Michigan — or Wisconsin, where plant owner We Energies is located — should pay.
“The fact that the federal government controls our destiny … does make it a tough situation when you have variables coming in and trying to dictate what we have to do,” state Sen. Mike Nofs, who chairs the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, told the audience of over 300.
Valerie Brader, deputy legal counsel and senior policy advisor for Gov. Rick Snyder, said earlier in the day that the crisis “is an example of what happens when the federal government makes [energy] decisions for you.”