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Greentech Media: Michigan's Comprehensive Approach to a Complicated Distributed Energy Future

Posted by Jeff St. John on Oct 31, 2019

Greentech Media covered MI Power Grid, Michigan's new grid mod approach to prepare for a distributed energy future, quoting AEE's Ryan Katofsky and AEE state partner MiEIBC's Laura Sherman. Read excerpts below and the entire GTM piece here (sub req.).

Michigan is not the most aggressive state in terms of clean energy mandates, grid modernization initiatives, or distributed energy resource integration. But over the past few years, the Wolverine state’s energy future has begun to shift dramatically — and now, state leaders have launched a comprehensive effort to tie it all together. It’s called MI Power Grid, and according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Public Service Commission, it’s going to be the central source for Michigan residents and businesses seeking to take part in the state’s broader energy transformation.

The plan comprises “new clean energy programs and rates, advancements in how energy infrastructure is planned to meet customer needs, and updated regulations to improve customer service and reliability."

"These are...really important building blocks for what some would call the utility of the future, others would call regulatory reform [and] others would call transformation of utility business models,” Ryan Katofsky, managing director for the Advanced Energy Economy trade group, a big supporter of MI Power Grid, said in a recent interview. 

Vanguard states like California and New York have been engaged in similar reforms for over a decade. For Michigan, the big driver for MI Power Grid is the passage of major energy legislation in 2016, which overhauled the state’s renewable portfolio standard, its approach to energy efficiency and demand response programs, and other key energy policies. 

Many of these changes have been welcomed by clean energy advocates as improvements from the status quo. At the same time, not all of the changes from the 2016 laws were welcomed by the state’s solar installers and DER providers. In particular, the decision to do away with Michigan’s net metering regulations, and replace them with new utility “distributed generation programs,” meant to link compensation more closely to real-world costs and benefits of DERs, has failed to yield a workable policy, those groups say.  

That could change soon, however. This week, Michigan lawmakers introduced a package of bills, dubbed "Powering Michigan Forward,” that would offer state regulators several options to replace the 2016 regime. At its heart is the concept of a "fair value of solar" tariff, meant to capture the full array of DER benefits to the grid in a way that the utility programs developed from the 2016 legislation haven’t yet accomplished...

...MI Power Grid initiative could be a key tool for Michigan’s utilities, regulators and electricity customers to work out their differences over DER policy, said Laura Sherman, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, the state AEE affiliate that helped craft the Powering Michigan Forward package.

“The MI Power Grid [plan] is a really good way to coordinate a lot of activities that have been going on at the commission since the 2016 energy legislation,” she said. This could include the contentious effort to align the interests of Michigan’s utilities, which currently oppose the Powering Michigan Forward legislation, with the interests of the state’s small but growing clean energy industry...

Read the entire Greentech Media piece here (sub req.).

Topics: United In The News