Solar in Michigan Facing Challenges From Net Metering Changes
Michigan is the latest state dealing with threats to net metering, a policy that allows energy customers with solar panels to sell extra power back to the grid. In Michigan, DTE Energy currently pays full retail price for this surplus power.
But, the company is seeking changes that renewable energy advocates say will slow down solar expansion in the state. It wants to reduce the payment rate by 75 percent. In addition, it is proposing a monthly fee for solar energy customers. “DTE declined to say what the impact of its proposal would be for solar panel owners, but Vote Solar estimates that the proposed changes would mean a homeowner with a 5 kilowatt system loses about $498 per year,” reports Dan Gearino.
Solar is starting to take off in Michigan so these proposed changes could severely hamper its growth. Gearino says Nevada dropped its net-metering rates in 2015 with severe consequences:
Solar growth came to a near-standstill, and major solar installers, including Sunrun and SolarCity, announced they were stopping local operations, closing offices and cutting hundreds of jobs. The backlash forced the state to reverse course in 2017, and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill restoring net-metering payments.
What is happening in Michigan is occurring in other states, as utility companies respond to what they perceive to be a threat to their bottom lines. “What the discussion lacks, [David] Littell said, is a model policy that both utility groups and clean energy advocates will concede is fair,” adds Gearino.