Bipartisan package of bills introduced to support clean energy

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A bipartisan package of five bills removing regulatory barriers to clean energy producers will be unveiled during a news conference in Lansing Tuesday.

State Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Williams Township), chair of the House Energy Policy Committee, said the five-bill measure restores fair-value pricing for renewable energy sold back to utility companies.

Bill sponsors are Rep. Glenn, Rep. Yousef Rabhi, (D-Ann Arbor), Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) and Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland). Termed the Energy Freedom legislation, the package is comprised of House Bills 5861-5865.

“We must stop recent attempts by the Michigan Public Service Commission and utility monopolies to eliminate competition by homeowners and farmers using solar panels and other means to produce renewable energy,” Rep. Glenn said. “Michigan residents deserve the freedom to choose for themselves how power will be provided to their homes. By enabling them to have the personal innovation to produce electricity from a diverse selection of renewable energy sources, they can cut back on their electric bills and keep more of their hard-earned money. This sort of competition from individuals will eventually lower the rates for everyone,” Rep. Glenn said.

Rep. Rabhi said regulatory obstacles discourage people from using clean energy, which helps the environment.

“Renewable energy is crucial to Michigan’s future,” Rep. Rabhi said. “It keeps our air and water clean, it provides distributed generation capacity, and it fuels our economy through job creation and lower energy bills. The Energy Freedom bills would remove barriers to renewable energy production for homeowners, business owners and non-profits across the state.”

Rep. Barrett, chair of the House Agriculture Committee who also serves on the Energy Policy Committee, said reducing the amount of money utilities pay for excess energy is hard on Michigan’s farmers.

“Current law places a cap on how many customers can participate in a utility’s distributed generation program,” Rep. Barrett said. “We are quickly outgrowing the arbitrary limit to net metering, and my bill removes that cap so more Michiganders – especially farmers interested in investment in wind and biogas generation – can become energy producers.”

Rep. Johnson’s bill is a common-sense solution allowing renewable energy producers to use stored energy to keep the lights on in a power outage.

“We have a lot of power outages in Michigan, and under current law, grid-connected customers who generate their own energy are unnecessarily forced to go dark during utility outages,” said Rep. Johnson, who serves on the Energy Policy Committee. “My bill would set up interconnection standards to enable microgrids to operate as ‘islands’ cut off from the grid during outages, so that hospitals, shelters, and other critical facilities can continue to operate with renewable power.” 

Johnson said the legislation allows studies to determine if expansion of the microgrid system to a greater number of people who generate their own power would be feasible.

Rep. Dianda’s legislation establishes a fair price structure for systems capable of producing more than 500 kilowatts, noting that such a structure would benefit rural areas of the Upper Peninsula.

“In rural areas like the western U.P., it makes more sense to produce energy near where it will be used,” Rep. Dianda said. “We should encourage people to power their homes and businesses using the U.P.’s rich renewable energy resources, which include mine-based geothermal heat, woody biomass, and solar. My bill will help strengthen our energy infrastructure and provide much-needed jobs by ensuring energy producers get a fair price.”

Rep. Glenn said he will conduct committee hearings on the bills later this month.

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