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E-M:/ Michigan Renewables Energy Program



        On the same day that the Abraham/Bush/Cheney (ABC -- Anything But Conservation) energy policy was released, comments were due to the Michigan Public Service Commission regarding their proposed Michigan Renewables Energy Program (MREP).

        The draft MREP report outlines numerous regulatory and market barriers that limit renewable wind and solar resources from being used to generate electricity in Michigan.  To address these barriers the MPSC proposes to setup a new website and educate consumers about the benefits of renewables.  In other words, they WILL NOT issue the rulings necessary to create a fair market and regulatory structure that values solar and wind resources as being equivalent to the status quo, i.e. coal and nuclear.

        What could the MPSC and the Engler Administration do?  One incredibly small thing they could do would be to develop a net metering rule that would require utilities to allow small residential and commercial solar and wind generators to safely interconnect to the grid and provide any excess renewably generated electrons to their friends and neighbors. 

        Technology is available that interconnects safely with the electric utility (the interconnection devices are underwriter's laboratory approved) and senses when the grid is "energized."  If the utility has gone down, then the inverter disconnects from the utility and only supplies power to your home.  This allows the utility linemen to safely fix any problem with the distribution system.  This technology is infinitely safer than the hundreds of thousands of small gasoline generators scattered throughout the country dangerously backfeeding the electric utility when the power goes out.

        The inverter technology also can send electricity back to the utility (i.e. spin your meter backwards) when you're producing more electricity than you need and when the grid is not down.  When you're consuming more than you're producing, you buy from the utility (i.e. your meter spins in the favorable direction for the utility again).

        At least 19 of the 23 states that have restructured their electric utility industries have adopted net metering rules.  Michigan has not.

        In previous rulemakings the MPSC has indicated that they would study net metering and develop a position.  Over 17 years ago the MPSC granted Michigan customers served by Wisconsin utilities the right to net meter.  Over 17 years ago our neighbor, Wisconsin, adopted net metering.  Michigan utility customers are still waiting and waiting and waiting and.........

        In March 1999 the MPSC ordered their staff to perform and publish an evaluation of net metering.  Today nothing has been published and the Sierra Club has requested a copy of the staff evaluation and we're still waiting and waiting and waiting and.........

        We're still waiting for Michigan to catch up and our utilities are in no hurry to get there.  See what the Sierra Club and all of the other organizations that commented had to say about the proposed MPSC renewables program at

http://cis.state.mi.us/mpsc/execsec/mrep.comments.htm

        By the way, if you don't read their comments Detroit Edison is adamantly opposed to net metering and Consumers likes the status quo (i.e. they make no comment, so don't implement net metering MPSC).  If you're served by AEP, they did not bother to respond to the MREP proposal.

        The commission also asked for the following:

"In addition, the Commission welcomes comments regarding how the performance of the Michigan Renewables Energy Program should be measured."

Ii is intuitively obvious that if the commission was truly interested in promoting renewables then they could measure the increase in renewable electricity generation due to their program and declare success. 

Since they're obviously not interested in renewables, then they can count how many awards they receive for their new renewables website and declare success while actually accomplishing nothing.

David Wright
Energy Committee
Mackinac Chapter Sierra Club