Legislators, clean energy advocates call to remove cap on rooftop solar energy
HB 4236 would lower utility bills, increase clean energy in Michigan
State representatives joined clean energy advocates Tuesday in a virtual press conference to advance HB 4236, which promotes distributed renewable energy by calling for the removal of Michigan’s 1% cap on rooftop solar. This legislation would prevent Michigan utility companies from continuing to block Michiganders from installing solar panels to generate clean and renewable solar energy and lower their electricity bills.
“The (distributed generation) cap is a fundamental violation of progress, energy resilience, and job growth. It is an outdated relic from a time when solar was only for early adopters,” said Erica Larsen, sales engineer at the Green Panel, a Brighton-based company of about 50 people that installs solar panels.
“Solar energy with battery storage can drastically reduce the electricity costs for a household,” said Steve Prange, retired engineer, and Commerce Township resident. “People can keep their lights on and the appliances running during storms.”
After installing an array of solar panels outside his home, Prange reports his monthly electricity bill is a fraction of what it was. His access to solar energy provided continued power during recent outages while his neighbors went without.
“What we see is that the grid is not reliable, it’s not resilient, it is not affordable,” said Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, who was among the millions of Michigan residents who lost power several times over the summer. “When there are natural disasters, which we know are going to be more frequent going forward, when we are not relying on one plant to generate all of our power, we will know we have more resilience in the grid.”
"Solar energy is important for Black and brown communities. Fossil fuel plants are disproportionately located near Black and brown communities, giving us higher rates of asthma and COPD,” said Lashaya Darisaw, community organizer and environmental advocate. “Solar power will lower our reliance on burning fossil fuels, and that reduction in pollution is crucial for the health of communities of color."
There is a lot of potential for growth in residential renewable energy. According to a Michigan Public Service Commission report released last month, Michigan distributed generation program capacity grew 37% in 2020 and added 2,400 customers.
"It’s exciting to see the increase,” said Rep. Padma Kuppa, D-Troy. “It’s a positive sign of what more we can do if we pass HB 4236."
Despite the popularity of the idea, HB 4236 still languishes in committee. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gregory Markkanen, R-Hancock, doesn’t expect any movement on his proposal unless there is consistent pressure on the Energy Committee Chair, Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe to bring this to the floor for a vote." If that did happen, Rep Markkanen is certain it would have the votes to pass and the support of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Even if the bill comes out of committee, Rep. Kuppa says the Speaker of the House would still decide if the bill ever gets an up or down vote on the house floor. She encourages residents to call Rep. Wentworth’s office and make clear that the public wants a vote on this bill.