Bills in Lansing could have huge impact on solar industry
Republican Senator John Proos of St. Joseph is proposing legislation that would require individuals with solar panels to sell their energy back to the utility companies at a wholesale rate and buy it back at a retail rate. This is also known as net metering.
Supporters of Senator Proos's bill say it will “improve access to renewable energy" and make the argument that solar users are not paying their fair share to maintain the grid and that everyday rate payers are subsidizing them. “There’s a certain cost to participation on the grid,” Proos said.
According to Proos, when a person is a rooftop solar operator they become independent producers of their own electricity that they utilize for their own benefit. Then they want to sell that back to the grid. However, what is happening is that as those technologies become more cost competitive, it also becomes more of a regulatory concern.“How can we equitably and fairly land in a public policy position that ensures that the grid is taken care of while you still can produce your own rooftop solar energy for yourself?” he asked.
A similar bill that passed in Nevada essentially killed the solar industry there. Applications for solar installations have plunged more than ninety percent in the first quarter of 2016 and a number of solar panel manufacturers have pulled out of the state.
Will Craven is the director of communications of SolarCity. He believes the bill would keep thousands of jobs out of Michigan. “You do not see a thriving rooftop solar industry anywhere where there is not net metering,” Craven said.
In the over twenty states that SolarCity has worked in, according to Craven, they have found that consumers like the choices in utility power. “It’s really good for everyone, because it provides clear energy at the site of consumption. That’s the most important thing and of course solar is clean for the community and for the world,” Craven said.
The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Technology.