By Amy Heart, spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice
Michigan is home to hundreds of solar companies that have created thousands of jobs for the state. The relatively small but budding solar industry has grown significantly over the past several years thanks in part to forward-thinking, common-sense energy policy by state legislators.
However, this progress is at risk due to a proposal from energy regulators at the Michigan Public Service Commission that aims to eliminate retail net energy metering. Eliminating retail net metering without a solid, tested rate design framework and methodology in place will destabilize Michigan’s growing solar industry, putting 4,000-plus solar jobs in the state at risk.
There’s simply no good reason to move away from retail net metering. Last year, the Michigan state legislature directed the Commission to find a tariff that represents an equitable cost of service for net-metering customers. A full cost of service examination or study of net-metering customers was never performed. In fact, according to the Commission’s own research, net-metered solar systems provide a net-benefit for all ratepayers.
Think about it—if more people are producing their own power right at the source, there will be less need for new, expensive building poles and wires. There will also be less wear and tear on the power lines, meaning less need for maintenance and repairs. Because of benefits like these, there is no reason to slash the value of solar and punish customers.
There is no rush. Let’s get it right. Currently, residential solar makes up merely 0.5% of the grid in Michigan.The Commission should follow national standards and keep its current solar rate design in place. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) recommends not considering a change to solar net-metering policies until distributed solar makes up 5% of an electricity grid.
Policymakers in Michigan are preparing instead to devalue rooftop solar, endanger the solar economy in the state and possibly leave many unemployed. Nevada made the mistake of eliminating net metering in late 2015 without having a fair replacement. This decision disrupted the economy virtually overnight, sending thousands of workers out of the state to look for new jobs. The governor restored net metering in 2017.
Why would Michigan be discouraging something that is good for the economy and the electricity grid—and wildly popular with people across the state? Polling shows that more than 80% of Michigan voters across party lines favor increasing the state’s use of solar energy. It’s clear that Michigan wants power by the people, from the people. Instead of making homegrown solar inaccessible, Michigan can keep a level, fair playing field for rooftop solar.
The Commission must maintain the current solar billing structure of retail net metering until it has conducted a full cost of service study through a contested proceeding and approved an appropriate tariff, as it has been statutorily directed by the state legislature.
If you support rooftop solar in Michigan, make your voices heard by visiting our action page and submitting a comment to the Commission’s public docket: http://allianceforsolarchoice.p2a.co/NCf3oUm
Amy Heart is a spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), an organization dedicated to promoting energy choice with rooftop solar.