Government and Sustainability

Bill under consideration encourages energy resilience

Proposal would allow energy users to use microgrids during a power outage.

April 26, 2019
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A bipartisan push to inspire private solar usage currently is under consideration by the Michigan House of Representatives.

Reps. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, and Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, recently introduced legislation to promote energy resilience by allowing the use of microgrids, which enable energy users with renewable energy systems to disconnect from the main electric grid during outages and continue powering their facilities.

Currently, energy customers that generate renewable energy and connect to the grid are not able to produce and use their own power during outages.

The new piece of legislation, House Bill 4477, would establish protocols for microgrids so renewable energy users could safely disconnect from the main electric grid during outages and continue using the renewable energy they generate.

“Allowing microgrids would help essential services, like schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and shelters, keep the lights on when the main electric grid fails,” Johnson said. “This legislation is a step toward greater energy independence, adaptability and resiliency for Michigan energy users.”

Nick Occhipinti, government affairs director for Michigan League of Conservation Voters, supported the bill, saying locally produced clean energy makes the grid safer and more resilient.

“Ensuring critical facilities can use those systems during emergencies and power outages is a win for public safety and the environment,” Occhipinti said. “We applaud Reps. Johnson and Rabhi for taking the lead on promoting clean, affordable and resilient energy in Michigan, and we urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support this legislation.”

John Mieczkowski, legislative director for Steve Johnson’s office, said Johnson and Rabhi’s philosophic differences intersected in the formation of HB 4477. Rabhi is passionate about sustainable energy, while Johnson wants to ensure individual users have more control over their energy sourcing and usage.

HB 4477 has been referred to the house energy committee for consideration.

The proposal of HB 4477 was preceded by another package of bills aimed to inspire more solar usage among private individuals. Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, introduced House Bills 5143 and 5680 in December 2018. Both bills were passed by the Michigan House unanimously.

Under these new pieces of legislation, solar installations would not be taxed under Michigan’s personal property tax but would be added to the residential property’s market value at the time of sale.

“I have an interest in making sure residents would not be penalized if they made that investment,” Barrett previously told the Business Journal. “In Michigan right now, if you’ve got a boiler in the basement and you upgrade it to a natural gas furnace, you don’t get penalized for it. Solar should operate similarly.”

Mieczkowski said the two bills and HB 4477 have overlapping goals but formatively do not relate to one another.

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