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Lawmakers want a vote on a bill to eliminate cap on rooftop solar

A solar panel array in Lenawee County. Some lawmakers say Michigan needs to remove obstacles to locally generated renewable energy.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A solar panel array in Lenawee County. Some lawmakers say Michigan needs to remove obstacles to locally generated renewable energy.

Some legislators want the chair of the Michigan House Energy committee to let them vote on a bill that would expand rooftop solar.

Under a 2016 law, not more than one percent of a utility’s average peak load can come from distributed energy production such as rooftop solar

The big utility companies such as Consumers Energy and DTE Energy want to keep the cap. Solar panel installers want it to be eliminated. Businesses that want to install solar, and clean energy advocates also want the cap lifted.

This is the third time such a bill has been introduced.

Republican Representative Gregory Markkanen is the Majority Vice Chair of the House Energy Committee. He says Chair, Representative Joe Bellino, also a Republican, is not letting the committee vote on the legislation.

That’s why he joined some Democrats in a call for public pressure to release the bill.

“And demanding that the cap be lifted, this bill, be brought to the committee for a vote and onto the floor. I think more public pressure the better,” Markkanen said during an online news conference.

The virtual event was organized by Michigan United, a group that supports economic and racial justice. Besides Markkanen, it included Democratic legislators, a solar panel installing company, and a homeowner who explained what renewable energy has done for his energy bills.

Representive Bellino’s office said in an emailed statement:

“We are still looking at this topic. There’s a very fine line to be found here that gives the solar industry room to grow without causing a big cost shift to consumers. We have been very close a couple times in negotiations with stakeholders, and I think we can get there, but I will not pass this bill out of committee until it is ready. I do not want it to simply die on the floor and have it all be for nothing.”

Democrats say lifting the cap on residential and small business renewable energy is an important part of mitigating climate change and the hope that renewable energy will help lower electricity rates.

“What we want is to elevate this issue so that we do get a hearing and a vote on this bill because it will give a lot of people relief in energy costs and it will also help our environment,” said Representative Padma Kuppa (D-Troy).

Representative Markkanen believes his bill is ready now without any changes.

“Yes, I do believe I have the votes and the governor’s office.”

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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