WUOMFM

Bipartisan critics call renewable energy bill “monopoly control”

Sep 3, 2015

Solar shingles.
Credit Dow Chemical

There’s heated debate over the future of renewable energy policy in Michigan – and it’s not just Democrats versus Republicans.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is criticizing legislation that would put new limits on Michigan’s net metering program. That program allows people with solar panels to sell surplus energy back to the grid.

The group is now offering its own legislation which would expand the net metering program.

“Shouldn’t Michigan residents be able to generate their own energy and feed that back into the grid that we’ve all built?” asked state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, during a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

“We’re missing out on a lot of opportunities here to explore renewables at the small-scale end of the spectrum, instead of just pushing them at the large, industrial, utility-based scale,” said state Rep. Ed. McBroom, R-Vulcan, who is sponsoring a bill in the package which deals specifically with net metering.

Utilities say the net metering program is unfair because they claim it shifts costs to maintain the grid to other customers.

But Irwin, McBroom, and other lawmakers like state Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, say the bill to limit the program – Senate Bill 438 – is designed to benefit the utilities, not ratepayers.

“This is the first package of bills that are going to be in favor of more consumer choice and more consumer freedom and less monopoly control of Michigan’s energy future,” said Glenn.

Lawmakers are discussing proposals on a variety of issues as part of an effort to shape Michigan’s overall energy policies in the coming years.