Media Release: MPSC Rejects Much of DTE’s Proposal to Crush Rooftop Solar Market

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has issued a final decision in a case with enormous implications for current and future rooftop solar customers and thousands of solar installers across the state.  At issue was a proposal by DTE Energy as part of its annual rate case to eliminate the popular net metering program and instead impose hefty new monthly charges for rooftop solar customers, along with a dramatically reduced credit rate for electricity generated by customers and exported to neighboring customers via the grid.  The decision was the first in the state to replace net metering, and will set precedent for an anticipated filing by Consumers Energy to replace net metering in 2020. Together, these decisions will determine the viability of the independent distributed solar industry in Michigan.

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“It’s gratifying that the Commission has established rules that will open up a future path for solar customers and installers in Michigan,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “DTE’s proposal was aimed at blocking customers from going solar, by threatening them with unreasonable penalties and an unfairly meager credit for power sold into the grid. We applaud the commission for siding with all Michigan residents in this case.”

Significantly, the Commission sided with solar advocates in rejecting DTE’s proposed monthly grid charge, which would have cost solar customers $2.31/month for every kW of solar they install, or roughly $15.48 per month for the average solar household in Michigan.  The Commission agreed with the Administrative Law Judge that DTE had not presented any evidence justifying that charge, nor did the charge comport with state law.

“We applaud the Commission for recognizing this proposed charge as what it was:  fully unlawful and unsupported by the facts in this case,” said Will Kenworthy, Midwest Regulatory Director for Vote Solar.  “Unfortunately, several large utilities across the country have proposed similar penalties, in hopes of denying customers the ability to reduce their dependence on the grid.  Clearly, a public utility has no business working to block customers from using solar or other technology to reduce their grid dependence.”

The Commission order also preserves the fundamental right of people to generate and use solar on their own property to reduce their consumption without penalty.  In replacing net metering with an “inflow-outflow tariff” customers will see lower credit rates for electricity they export to the grid, but the Commission rejected DTE’s proposal to slash those credits by more than 75%.  

“Michigan customers want solar because it helps them manage their bills, while creating local jobs and reducing harmful pollution.  But those same solar installations also make the grid less expensive and more resilient,” said Margrethe Kearney, Grand Rapids-based attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.  “While we are disappointed that the Commission’s order also reduces bill credits for solar customers, we are glad that the impact is not as severe as DTE proposed.”

Consumers Energy is expected to file a rate case in 2020 proposing its own version of a net metering replacement.  Moreover, state lawmakers have proposed legislation to restore full net metering.

“The MPSC has the opportunity to use the time between now and the Consumers Energy proposal to fully evaluate the range of grid and societal benefits that result from customer-sited solar, and to ensure a fully equitable deal for solar customers,” said Charles Griffith, Climate and Energy Program Director for the Ecology Center.  “We once again urge them to do so, and support legislative efforts to restore net metering to encourage a strong solar market.”

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For More Information Contact:

Mary McClelland, ELPC,  312-522-5706

Morgan Lyons, SEIA, 202-556-2872

 




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