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Environmental groups contesting Consumers Energy rooftop solar proposal

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

Consumers Energy is hoping to slash what it pays rooftop solar customers for the electricity they produce.

The utility wants to compensate those customers 46% less for their electricity than what it currently charges.

Margrethe Kearney is with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. She says rooftop solar customers are actually entitled to more, not less, than the utility's own rate. That's because rooftop solar electricity is used locally.

"It keeps you [Consumers Energy] from having to send it [electricity] to my neighbor from some power station miles away, " says Kearney. "So it's saving tons of use on the transmission and the distribution systems."

The Environmental Law and Policy Center is asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to do a study on the actual costs and benefits of rooftop solar, and in the meantime,  to keep the current "net metering" scheme of valuing rooftop solar.

Net metering means rooftop solar customers are compensated the same rate for the electricity they produce as what the utility charges.

In a statement, Consumers Energy spokeswoman Katie Carey says, "the rate we filed was approved twice by the Michigan Public Service Commission as the way to implement the requirements of the 2016 energy law, and we are simply following past commission precedent."

She adds that the utility plans to invest heavily in large-scale solar farms over the next two decades.

"We are not anti-solar," she says. "In fact, through our company's Clean Energy Plan, we have one of the boldest solar investment plans in the nation, with plans to invest in over 6,000 [megawatts] of new solar to serve all of our customers in Michigan."

Consumers Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

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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