Consumers Energy in Michigan, with a peak demand of around 4,000 megawatts (MW) just put the brakes on its pilot 2 MW solar PV program. The program sold out very fast, but rather than expand the program to accommodate demand, the utility says it needs to study the program.
The program was modeled on CLEAN Contracts, also known as feed-in tariffs, that provided a fixed payment per kilowatt-hour over 12 years that was high enough for residential and commercial solar PV systems to earn a decent rate of return. Similar programs operate on a larger scale in Gainesville, FL, Vermont, Ontario, and in many European countries.
A lot of local businesses were strongly interested in participating, in part for the spillover economic benefits:
“When I looked at all the businesses that benefited,” [said Mr. Draper, regarding Fluid Process Company’s] installation, “the local steel fabricator for the mounting poles, the tree remover, the ditch digging, crane, and concrete companies—Consumers would be giving the state a much-needed boost.”
For now, many solar industry and advocacy groups are trying to convince Consumers Energy to reinstate the program, especially since the utility is also trying to roll back its renewable energy surcharge from $2.50 to 70 cents per customer.
Said David Wright, of the non-profit Ecology Center, in Ann Arbor,
“We just don’t want to see the program end. It’s in everyone’s best interest to diversify power supplies, find out about cost reductions, improve the program, and support our local solar industry.”