Consumers Energy to open solar program for 1000’s extra … – MiBiz: West Michigan Business Information

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LANSING — State regulators have permitted an settlement between Consumers Energy and greater than a dozen curiosity teams that may open a solar energy program to probably 1000’s extra owners and companies.

As a part of the Michigan Public Service Commission-approved settlement settlement Thursday, the Jackson-based utility agreed to double the cap on its “distributed generation” program. A successor to what was previously referred to as internet metering, this system establishes tips and the charges at which solar-owning prospects are compensated for sending extra power to the grid.

Doubling the cap from 2 % of the utility’s common peak load to 4 % is a win for clear energy advocates who’ve maintained that Consumers and different utilities undervalue prospects’ extra solar power despatched to the grid. 

As nicely, the settlement barely will increase the quantity that solar-generating prospects are credited by eliminating transmission service prices. 

Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council President Laura Sherman stated a number of intervenors within the MPSC case have argued that this system shouldn’t embody any cap on participation.

The 4 % cap is an enchancment “for those of us who want to make sure there’s a market for customers and companies to have certainty over the long term,” Sherman stated.

This week’s Consumers settlement comes as Michigan experiences regular development within the variety of utility prospects — each companies and owners — who’re putting in solar to offset their power prices.

A November 2022 MPSC report confirmed that statewide participation in Michigan’s distributed technology program elevated 37 % in 2021, and that participation has grown every year since 2006. At the top of 2021, 14,262 utility prospects generated practically 125 megawatts of power in this system, largely by way of solar energy installations. Consumers and DTE Energy prospects accounted for 91 % of the full program capability, in line with the MPSC.

Over the previous 12 months, each Consumers and DTE have inched nearer to their program cap limits. Consumers at the moment has 8,100 class 1 prospects and 300 class 2 prospects that account for 80 MW of capability. Doubling Consumers’ cap restrict opens this system as much as one other roughly 10,000 prospects.

“Consumers Energy continues to support customers who want to install rooftop solar generation,” Spokesperson Brian Wheeler stated by way of e-mail.

MPSC Chairperson Dan Scripps stated that increasing this system cap doesn’t pose engineering challenges, nor does it elevate cross-subsidization questions that utilities have beforehand argued earlier than the fee.

“We believe we are setting cost-based rates, including for distributed generation tariffs, and there’s no engineering rationale” behind not increasing the cap, Scripps advised MiBiz.

Electrification, EVs and refunds

The Consumers settlement concerned a number of parts of the utility’s enterprise, together with making everlasting a residential electrical car rebate pilot program and issuing $25 million in invoice credit and monetary help to low-income ratepayers.

The MEIBC additionally will likely be concerned in growing a pilot program that goals to interchange propane- and gasoline oil-powered home heating techniques with electrical variations at roughly 2,000 Michigan households over three years. The program would doubtless contain rebates for purchasers to make the shift.

The pilot is a part of a broader clear energy technique round electrification that hopes to cut back prospects’ publicity to risky value swings within the fossil gasoline market.

“These pilots are a chance to figure out what works, what doesn’t work, and how to improve programs,” Sherman stated. “Propane to electric is the low-hanging fruit. It’s the most likely place we can all agree to see how it works then move to the tougher case of a natural gas customer who wants to do this. There are some really good opportunities with propane.”

Electric warmth pumps, for instance, are one know-how that’s gaining recognition throughout the electrification motion, even in chilly climate climates.

The electrification pilot program goals for low-income participation and likewise will decide the flexibility to leverage federal rebates and incentives by way of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Scripps famous that the MPSC permitted an identical pilot program for Alpena Power Co.

“I think there’s been a focus and conversations through the MI Healthy Climate Plan and a number of other places around the potential electrification of heating from other fuel uses,” he stated. “I think it’s a chance to look at the technology from a heating standpoint, and allows for some additional load growth for the utility, which benefits everyone.”

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