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

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

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

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 atexpanding the net metering program in Michigan. A package of bills was introduced earlier this summer that wouldlift state limits on net meteringproduction 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.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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