Michigan lawmakers advance bills to abandon clean energy standards

Source: By Andy Balaskovitz, Midwest Energy News • Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Driven by Republican support, Michigan lawmakers advanced a pair of comprehensive energy bills last week that seek to put more restrictions on the state’s electric choice program and limit clean energy standards.

SB 438, which passed the Senate Energy and Technology Committee 7-3 along party lines, would hold a 10 percent renewable energy standard “floor” going forward and phase out Michigan’s successful energy efficiency program by 2021. The bill establishes a 35 percent clean energy goal by 2025, which would include energy efficiency and an expanded definition of renewable energy to include incineration.

Proposed amendments backed by Democrats to increase the state’s RPS to 15 percent and 20 percent failed, as did a proposal to extend the efficiency standard to 2025.

“I think we missed a golden opportunity here to build on very successful 2008 energy legislation and bring more parties on board to build support,” said Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood.

The bill does not, however, eliminate the state’s solar net metering program in favor of a “buy-all, sell-all” model where generators would buy their electricity from a utility and reimburse at roughly wholesale rates. That proposal originally drew fierce criticism from clean energy advocates. Though some changes were made for net metering provisions, existing participants would be grandfathered in under the existing system.

SB 437 would maintain Michigan’s 10 percent cap on customers who can participate in electric choice, but place greater restrictions on alternative energy suppliers to provide capacity and on customers who participate. The bill passed 6-1, with pro-deregulation Republican Sen. Mike Shirkey voting against it, saying the provisions will effectively kill Michigan’s choice program. Three Democrats abstained from voting.

The bill also establishes a detailed integrated resource plan process that is meant to replace the state’s clean energy standards adopted in 2008.

Major investor-owned utilities DTE Energy and Consumers Energy publicly supported both bills, as did Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum said while SB 437 and 438 move “in the right direction,” the group remains opposed.

“We’re concerned that repealing the RPS without any additional commitments to renewable energy is going to stall the progress that Michigan has made as a national leader in renewable energy,” MCEF executive director Larry Ward said in a statement.

Originally proposed last year, the bills are sponsored by Republican Sens. Mike Nofs and John Proos, who chair and co-chair the Senate energy committee, respectively. The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

A separate House energy policy package was voted out of committee last year but has yet to see a full floor vote.