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The Michigan House Energy Committee continues talks concerning accessible solar energy

The committee introduced two bills on April 27 that would expand consumer access to renewable power.
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - The push to establish more community solar facilities in the Upper Peninsula continued today.

The Michigan House Energy Committee is considering whether to move forward with legislation that could make renewable energy more accessible. While renewable energy is becoming common in many states, Michigan’s current laws make it difficult for people without land to choose clean power.

“Unfortunately, few Michigan residents have this option based on the current accessibility to community solar,” John Kinch, executive director of Michigan Energy Options, said.

To fix this issue, the State House Energy Committee introduced two clean energy bills. Lawmakers listened to testimony on them today. If approved, the measures could spark the widespread availability of solar power in Michigan.

“The community solar panels would really help,” Greg Markkanen, Representative of Michigan’s 110th State House District, said.

“It just gives people another energy option across the state.”

More community solar farms could also reduce energy costs for residents.

“Some ratepayers across the Upper Peninsula, especially those in UPPCO territory, pay around 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is 67 percent higher than the Michigan average,” Robert Hazen, a student at Michigan Technological University, said.

Hazen is one of two MTU students who testified in front of the House Committee Wednesday morning.

“The community solar enabling policy would allow customers the freedom to choose how they get their energy, the ability to lower their utility bills and to build a more sustainable future if they did not have the means to install solar panels in their yard or on their roof,” Hazen said in a statement to TV6.

“A community solar array can be placed in an area outside of the community or in an area in the community where the array has the most sunlight. The benefits of this program encourage customers to be energy efficient; it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and lowers the number of late payments, and accounts for delinquency. Community solar is the solution to offset these high energy costs, and it will be our only sustainable way forward.”

While many who support these bills think they could reduce energy costs, others disagree.

“While this legislation looks to provide options for solar access, it does not prioritize affordability and reliability, the two key components that are present with utility offerings,” Sarah Nielsen, executive director of Consumers Energy Renewables, Transportation and Storage, said.

Nielsen is one of two speakers who testified in opposition to the legislation. Opponents like Chuck Conlen, vice president of Renewable DTE Energy, believe the legislation will threaten the Upper Peninsula’s shift to renewable power.

“These policies risk Michigan’s transition to a clean energy future by placing a glut of unaffordable energy on the grid that is cross-subsidized, oftentimes by many folks that already have a hard time paying their monthly bill,” Conlen testified.

According to a recent study from Michigan State University, community solar projects could add over 18,000 new jobs to an industry that already employs over 110,000 people in Michigan.

Michigan House Representative Greg Markkanen says the House does not have a set timeline for when the Energy Committee will vote on the measures.

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