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Environmental law group says grid operator MISO's rules discriminate against renewable energy

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Wind turbine in background of rural scene

Nearly every year, renewable energy produces more of our electricity, and fossil fuel, especially coal, produces less.

But an environmental group says Michigan's grid operator is going in the wrong direction, by keeping renewable energy from fully participating in the electric grid.

Attorney Aaron Stemplewicz of Earthjustice said MISO, the multi-state grid operator that includes Michigan, has a rule on its books that keeps renewables from performing what are called "ancillary services."

An example of an ancillary service is agreeing to keep electricity out of the marketplace — holding it in reserve just in case another source of electricity goes offline unexpectedly.

"Or, if there's too much electricity on the grid, wind, solar and battery resources are particularly adept at curtailing their output and making sure the grid stays stable," Stemplewicz said.

Even worse, Stemplewicz said, MISO is preparing to add another ancillary service ban for renewables - called "ramp up capability." Ramp up capability helps the grid transition between one source of electricity, such as solar, going offline when the sun goes down, and when another, such as wind, begins to pick up. Renewable energy from battery storage, for example, could bridge the gap.

And he said the bans are shortsighted, since fossil fuel contributions to ancillary services to the grid are going to naturally decline.

"If you're MISO, you don't want to be in a place two years from now, where you're behind the 8-ball, and you're having problems. Allowing renewables to perform ancillary services is going to keep the grid stable as the transition in energy mix occurs," he said.

Stemplewicz said Earthjustice hoped to convince MISO to remove the first ancillary services ban, but decided a complaint to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was necessary when it learned that MISO was proposing to add the new ramp up ban.

MISO said it is still reviewing the FERC complaint and doesn't have anything to add at this time.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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