Michigan Utility Proposes Pilot Solar Tariff

By Paul Gipe


Consumers Energy, one of Michigan’s principle investor-owned electric utilities, has filed a petition with the Michigan Public Service Commission that contains a proposed “pilot” feed-in tariff for solar PV.

The filing is the utility’s formal response to the state’s recently passed RPS.

The proposal far exceeds that of Wisconsin utilities that currently operate limited feed-in tariffs, but pales in comparison to that being implemented by Gainesville Regional Utilities, a small municipal utility in Florida.

Gainesville’s policy is not a pilot program and the utility will begin accepting contracts March 1st.

Unlike the policies in Wisconsin, the Consumer Energy proposal is only for solar PV and does not include other renewables.

And unlike the program in Gainesville, Consumer Energy is offering a maximum contract length of 12 instead of 20 years.

While the proposed 2009 tariffs seem lucrative in comparison to those in Gainesville, the 2010 tariffs are in line with those that would be necessary for sites in Michigan with 20-year contracts. The 12-year contracts are problematic.

Consumers Energy also proposed a total program cap of 2 MW. Such a small program will reach no more than 500 homes.

In contrast, Gainesville has a “soft cap” of 4 MW per year and expects to sign half that number in the first few weeks of the program.

Further, some consider Consumers Energy proposed monthly fee of $25 per month too steep, especially for residential participants.

Elements of Consumers Energy Proposed pilot program

  • Solar PV only
  • Program cap 2 MW (500 kW reserved for residential customers) (Not an annual cap but a total program cap)
  • Project cap 150 kW
  • Project minimum: commercial 20 kW, residential 1 kW
  • 50%-60% Michigan Content Requirement (can be labor added)
  • 12 year contracts
  • $25/month service charge
  • 2009 Tariffs
    • Residential: $0.65/kWh
    • Commercial: $0.45/kWh
  • 2010 Tariffs
    • Residential: $0.525/kWh
    • Commercial: $0.375/kWh

For details see, http://efile.mpsc.cis.state.mi.us/efile/docs/15805/0024.pdf, pages 9, 26-28, 232-234 and 242.