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Rep. Markkanen fights to expand access to clean, affordable energy

 State Rep. Greg Markkanen testifies in support of his plan before the House Energy Committee on June 16, 2020. (Michigan House Republicans Photo)
State Rep. Greg Markkanen testifies in support of his plan before the House Energy Committee on June 16, 2020. (Michigan House Republicans Photo) (WLUC)
Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT
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State Representative Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock) of Michigan's 110th House District, Tuesday testified before the House Energy Committee in support of his plan to make it easier for people in the Upper Peninsula to utilize clean and affordable energy resources.

Markkanen said he regularly hears from residents and business owners frustrated by the astronomical price of power in the Western U.P. His plan will provide relief by removing bureaucratic barriers that currently deny people the freedom to generate their own renewable electricity.

“Our state laws should never take away the freedom of people to invest in clean, renewable energy resources that help the environment and save them money on their energy bills,” Markkanen said. “We must make adjustments now to ensure people can continue participating in solar, wind and other renewable energy programs.”

Current state law allows electric utility companies to restrict the total number of energy customers who can participate in renewable energy efforts and receive credit on their utility bills for the energy their equipment generates – a practice known as distributed generation. UPPCO customers reached the 1 percent cap shortly after the law was enacted in 2016. Other utilities are also quickly approaching the cap. Markkanen noted that UPPCO, in its recent settlement with the Michigan Public Service Commission, agreed to raise its cap to 2 percent, but the number of participants are already nearing that limit as well.

“If the cap is reached, it will put a halt to a growing industry and drive jobs out of the Upper Peninsula,” Markkanen said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has already hurt our local economy, we can’t let our state’s energy policies do even more damage.”

Markkanen’s legislation, House Bill 5145, eliminates the arbitrary cap and allows any customer who meets certain interconnection and equipment requirements to participate.

Ben Schimpf, project manager at Peninsula Solar; Dr. Nelson Sommerfeldt, visiting researcher at Michigan Tech University; Ed Rivet, executive director at Michigan Conservative Energy Forum; and David Camps, president at Blue Terra Energy also testified before the committee in support of Markkanen’s plan.

The measure remains under consideration by the committee.

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