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Joe Bellino standing in way of Michigan’s solar power growth

June 21st, 2021 | By Roger Kuznia

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By Jayson Waller
Pink Energy CEO

Once again, the Michigan Legislature is debating a bill to remove the arbitrary caps on rooftop solar in the state after previous attempts over the past several years have stalled out. If this legislation does not pass, solar power installations on rooftops in the state will soon end, leaving Michigan behind in an industry that is among the fastest growing in the country. As it stands, both Consumers Energy and Upper Peninsula Power Co. have already reached the statutory cap of 1 percent and have agreed to raise their caps through settlement agreements with the Michigan Public Service Commission to 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively. This isn’t enough. Meanwhile, DTE has not reached its cap and may not raise it because Michigan law would allow them to cease connecting these systems. That is why Representative Joe Bellino, the House Energy Committee’s Chairman, must bring this bill up for a vote. The time is now to provide a future for Michiganders who work in the industry and freedom of choice to homeowners and businesses who want to add solar power to their properties.

Ironically, our state is the legendary leader across the world in auto manufacturing. The speed by which that industry is planning for the production of electric vehicles in the coming years makes the 1 percent cap even more ridiculous. Imagine how much energy it will take to charge hundreds of thousands of cars. Even if the federal government invests billions of dollars to strengthen our energy grid and build more electric charging stations, the results will be years or even decades away. Solar power gives us the opportunity right now to become more independent from an unreliable and aging grid while reducing pressure on it. Having a backup power source during grid outages or a convenient way to charge an electric car without further burdening the grid are good things for our state. The current 1 percent cap is unfair and detrimental to the growth of the industry in Michigan and to all of our communities.

Why has Chairman Bellino not brought this bill yet to a vote in this session or even previous ones? His motivations are unclear but here is what we do know: the investor-owned utilities spend millions of dollars every year lobbying members of the Michigan Legislature. Whether through campaign contributions or other more difficult to track sources, the utilities play an outsized role in ensuring members who are friendly to their causes get in power and stay there. But we also know this: the solar industry employs more than 3,300 hard-working people in the state, and those good, high-paying jobs will vanish if the cap stays in place. The rest of the country gets it, as Michigan remains as outlier as the only state to have such a punitive cap on rooftop solar, yet Chairman Bellino and the utilities continue to hold our state back.

House Bill 4236 must be passed in the 2021 session. Solar power gives Michiganders the potential to save on current utility bills (money which can be used in other areas of our local economy) and a way to offset outrageous rate increases, provides protection during power outages, whether malicious attacks or weather-related, and gives Michigan communities the chance to better prepare for the mass production of electric cars that are on the way. Chairman Bellino, vote on the bill. The time is now.

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