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Solar Growth Could Stall as Michigan Looks to Change Net Metering Policies

Nearly 2,600 Michigan households now generate their own electricity through solar power, according to state data. (jutta/morguefile)
Nearly 2,600 Michigan households now generate their own electricity through solar power, according to state data. (jutta/morguefile)
January 11, 2018

LANSING, Mich. – The number of Michiganders who produce their own electricity with solar panels in 2016 grew by 427 over the previous year, according to a new report by the Michigan Public Service Commission, but there are concerns that policy changes will stunt future progress.

Much of the growth is credited to the state's net metering program, which lets ratepayers sell surplus power back to the grid at retail prices.

That program, established in 2008, is set to end this year and state officials plan to replace it with a tariff system that would result in about 5 cents less per kilowatt hour.

Mark Hagerty, president, Michigan Solar Solutions, says it's a complicated formula, which makes it difficult to explain the benefits of solar to those looking to go green.

"With these changes, it removes all of that,” he states. “I could not accurately forecast a return on investment for customers."

Customers who install projects by 2019 will be grandfathered into the existing net metering rates for another decade.

A representative for the Michigan Public Service Commission says it's too soon to predict how the new tariff could affect future solar installations.

Critics of net metering say the current decrease in the cost of wind and solar installations makes incentives obsolete.

Hagerty says he feels the state has made good progress in the past decade and would hate to see it come to an end.

"The constant change of policy, the constant adjusting, the constant threat against net metering really makes a lot of people uncomfortable with proceeding," he states.

The state is required to release a final study on the tariff design by April 20.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI