You have about 6 months to go solar in West Michigan before it gets less advantageous for the foreseeable future.
And if you use most of your electricity at night or in the winter, it will get a lot less advantageous. It’s truly as simple as that. Here’s why:
With solar power adoption growing at an exponential rate around the country, non-utility solar installation laws are in flux everywhere. In the final hours of 2019, over one-hundred environmental advocates, solar customers, solar installers and contractors in Boise Idaho attended the final public comment meeting of the year for the Public Utilities Commission. The local utility Idaho Power had new rates proposed regarding the price point at which existing and future solar customers could sell their energy back to the grid (“net-metering”). These changes would NOT make it more beneficial to go solar by any metric. Quite the opposite.
The meeting did not end until almost a hundred public comments later and after 2am in the morning. The aftermath of that meeting was a hold placed on the planned net-metering changes the utility was assumed to have in place and functioning by January 1st of 2020. A victory for solar power advocates, if not a temporary one.
My friends run a branch of Altenergy Incorporated there in Boise Idaho. That’s why I’m so familiar with this story. But I was curious to see how it was about to impact them not just because I’ve worked there and lived there myself, not just because I helm a branch of that same company here in Grand Rapids, but mostly because we are mere months away from the same fate here in West Michigan.
If you want to read about what’s in store, all you have to do is google “Michigan Solar Tariffs”, or “Detroit solar rate changes”, or you could just read this nice recap from the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. Because this law has already passed here in Michigan. It’s already in effect for DTE customers. It just hasn’t taken effect in West Michigan yet due to some advantageous timing with our utilitie’s rate-case schedule (Consumers Energy).
If you didn’t click the link or do your own google, here’s my quick breakdown:
Every 2 years or so Consumers Energy proposes and gets approval from The Public Service Commission for it’s new electric rates for all customers (“rate case”). The last time they did this was right before the new law had gone into effect after being passed in December of 2016 by then Governor Snyder (in a lame-duck session, none-the-less). This new law authorized the electric utilities to change the buy-back procedure for how net-metering has historically worked in Michigan.
At present for Consumers Energy customers, if you generate more electricity than you are using and send some electricity back to the grid during the day-time, but then use electricity from the grid at night when you are not producing electricity, what you sent back to the grid 100% offsets the cost of what you took from the grid at that later time. Energy-fee, delivery-fee and all. Which is about 14 cents per killowatt-hour for the average residential customer in West Michigan. And this is only tabulated on a monthly basis when you get your bill. So if you sent 130kwh of electricity back to the grid in the month of August, but you only used 96kwh of electricity from the grid in that time, you not only do not get charged anything for those 96 killowatt-hours, you would also bank 34kwh worth of net-metering credits.
So now, later this year, our next Consumers Energy rate-plan will likely mirror what has already been approved by the Public Service Commision and gone into effect for DTE customers around the rest of the state. Under the new law and rate-plan, when they generate more electricity than they are using during the daytime hours and send back to the grid, they are only being credited for the energy-fee and at a lower rate of 7.44 cents. And to make it worse, this is being tabulated not monthly, but live. Second by second. This will be a pretty dramatic change in return-on-investment for anyone considering solar and not consuming a majority of their electricity during the daytime hours.
But if you get solar installed before this goes into effect in late 2020, you are grandfathered in under the current 1:1 net metering for 10 years. Which is about the length of time necessary to get your entire return on investment as a residential customer. About twice as long as necessary to earn your returns on a commercial depreciable solar investment.
So that’s why I’ve hit you with my sensationalized headline; because (I have an evident solar-leaning bias) if you are smart, you have six months to go solar in West Michigan!
Written by Chad Becker, the current Branch Manager for Altenergy Inc. Grand Rapids. A Michigan State Spartan, who grew up in Jenison Michigan, and is a current resident of Walker, Michigan.
*All of the details mentioned for residential and small commercial projects was in accordance with current Tier 1 Solar Array sizing by Consumers Energy. Those are arrays sized 20kw and below.
Bernie may have just dropped out of the 2020 election, but his campaign-closing message is more true than ever. More Americans need to believe we can actually make this country a better place to live for it to ever possibly happen. Because with the apathy of our current average American, no matter how wealthy or advanced our country gets, our countries continued economic power will forever be disconnected from advancing healthcare, education and wages for our citizens.
As he says in the announcement he just made an hour ago:
"If we don't believe that we are entitled to healthcare as a human right, we will never achieve universal healthcare. If we don't believe that we are entitled to decent wages and working conditions, millions will continue to live in poverty..."
Truer words have never been spoken at a moment where millions are likely to be in healthcare limbo right as the nation is dealing with a pandemic. Truer words have never been spoken when many public-facing workers are held hostage to continue going into work for wages conservatives would usually argue are meant for teenagers, but suddenly they are deemed "essential".
We won't achieve these goals if you never set them in your sites. Every other first world country has universal healthcare and pays less per capita for it. That may be a quick sentence you've heard many times before but please think about what is packed into that statement. Universal Healthcare eliminates medical bankruptcies. Universal Healthcare keeps people from denying an ambulance when they need one. Universal Healthcare allows growing small businesses to compete for and retain talent. Universal Healthcare eliminates people on their death-bed from having their final thoughts being about "how are we going to pay for this?". Universal Healthcare eliminates middle-men and paperwork and the profit motive from being the heart of our current healthcare industry.
We like to think of ourselves as the wealthiest country in the world, but our compassion and understanding of the human spirit does not match. We have been an economy for a century that adds great wealth to our country year after year, but we have not seen shared equity of that wealth beyond the richest of the rich since the 1980s. This is fixable but we have to believe it as people, for it to happen.
We are our only advocates!
Businesses pay billions to lobby for their business. Special Interests spend billions to lobby for their interests. There is no billion dollar advocacy group on behalf of all of us people. That's what we are supposed to be doing for ourselves by voting for people who fight for ALL Americans and our shared interests. We are supposed to be voting for people like Bernie Sanders.
But too many people don't believe. And we need you to believe! WE NEED YOU TO BELIEVE we don't have to watch our parents lose their retirement because one of them got cancer. WE NEED YOU TO BELIEVE we don't have to saddle children with tens of thousands of dollars of debt just to pursue an education. WE NEED YOU TO BELIEVE that not all politicians are the same. Because that's what they want you to believe so you continue to not care, continue to be apathetic, continue to just shrug. Because it is that void you leave behind that special interests are happy to fill. They fill that void with their money and lobbying and decades of understanding the game as we have allowed it to be played.
Thank you Bernie. You have lit more flames in your direction than I'm sure you could have hoped for only 5 years ago.
“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” - FDR
is a thirty-something guy who hasn't been able to look away from politics since 2010. Around the time he got tired of staring at religion.