More Michiganders are using wind and solar to power state electric grid

Aug 6, 2014

A new report says the number of people generating their own electricity in Michigan and sharing it with others is growing.

Since 2008, when Public Act 295 required the establishment of a statewide net metering program, net metering has increased by 1,474 customers.
Since 2008, when Public Act 295 required the establishment of a statewide net metering program, net metering has increased by 1,474 customers.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, the Michigan Public Service Commission released its annual "net metering" report. There’s been an 18% increase in electricity being added to Michigan’s power grid by homeowners, non-profits, and small businesses using their own solar and wind-power generators.

“They are putting that electricity on the grid and they are being compensated by way of a credit,” says Judy Palnau, the Michigan Public Service Commission spokeswoman. “Some people like to refer to it as ‘moving the meter backwards.’”

According to the report, since Public Act 295 became law in 2008, the number of net metering customers has grown to 1,527.       

Palnau says the growth has been led by people investing in home-based solar power equipment.

“That is something that has surprised a lot of people,” says Palnau. “You don’t think of Michigan as a particularly sunny state. But that is something that has become very, very popular.”

But the amount of actual electricity being produced in the net metering program remains minuscule compared to the total electricity generated by Michigan’s utilities. There are multiple barriers preventing more people from setting up their own solar, wind, or other alternative energy operations. 

State lawmakers are looking at expanding the net metering program in Michigan. A package of bills was introduced earlier this summer that would lift state limits on net metering production and would introduce market demand pricing.

Even with possible changes being considered by state lawmakers, Palnau says the cost of home-based wind and solar equipment remains a serious obstacle.