Dear Gov. Whitmer: Don't Let DTE Kill Rooftop Solar

DTE wants to make rules that would prevent regular folks (like the Chapmans and St. Peter's Church, pictured above) from using and owning solar.  Our new Governor has the power to influence these decisions, which are likely to affect solar users well beyond DTE's service territory. 

On January 25, we sent this letter-- signed by more than 100 faith leaders-- to Gov. Whitmer.  

Click here to view Gov. Whitmer's response, received on Feb. 13.

 

January 25, 2019

 

Dear Governor Whitmer:

As representatives of our congregations, which serve nearly 18,000 people across Michigan, we congratulate you on your inauguration to the top office in our state and pray for your ability to navigate the challenges ahead with wisdom and discernment.

We write not as members of any political party or spokespeople for any partisan agenda, but as people of faith and conscience who are called to speak out on behalf of the most vulnerable and for the Earth that we share.

We ask today for your help in opposing the proposals that would undermine the expansion of solar energy in Michigan, which the Public Service Commission is currently considering.

We believe that expanding solar and other clean energy technologies is: 

  • essential to caring for our sacred Earth, now dangerously imperiled by our continued reliance on fossil fuels
  • critical for the health of our communities, especially the communities of color and low-income communities who suffer disproportionately from pollution
  • imperative to ensuring energy affordability in the long term. In 2016 nearly 1,000,000 Michigan households spent more than 10% of their income on energy bills, a circumstance that is known as “energy poverty.”*

A number of our congregations, as well as folks from the communities we serve, are currently benefiting from solar energy. And many more are clamoring for it! It’s our hope that solar energy—energy from the heavens!—will become more accessible, not less. Several churches have used innovative financing solutions, like Power Purchase Agreements, which help make solar energy affordable for congregations without the financial means to raise the full upfront cost, and which make solar energy poised to take off in faith communities. Sixteen of the signatories of this letter represent houses of worship who have already installed solar panels on our properties, while 49 others are exploring the possibility.

For all these reasons, we are disappointed and alarmed that DTE Energy before the Michigan Public Service Commission is endeavoring to limit their customers’ ability to benefit from rooftop solar. DTE’s proposal would impose unnecessary and punitive new charges for solar customers, while also dramatically slashing the rate at which DTE pays rooftop solar customers for the excess electricity they generate and put back onto the grid. Under DTE’s proposal, the utility would charge customers $.15 per kWh of electricity purchased from DTE but pay just $.04 per kWh for the solar power they generate and put onto the grid. The proposal also seeks to impose a brand-new fee of $12 per month for typical residential-sized solar arrays. Neither of these changes has been supported by rigorous analysis of the cost and benefits of solar power, and the combination will serve to make rooftop solar unaffordable to all but the most affluent.

We understand that DTE and other electric utilities see independent rooftop solar as a threat to their long-term profits. And yet, the benefits of distributed solar far surpass the potential for a financial burden on DTE. Today, rooftop solar represents well-under one half of 1% of the electricity our utilities sell to customers in the state, posing no significant cost to the utilities and no credible threat to their viability. In fact, rooftop solar installations in DTE’s territory represent just 11 megawatts, which could increase by a factor of 50 before reaching a level of penetration that other states like Illinois have considered a trigger for policy interventions moving away from net metering.

Within the first 3 months of your tenure as Governor, the Public Service Commission will decide the fate of rooftop solar in Michigan. We request that you direct your agencies to intervene on behalf of solar customers—households, businesses, and congregations like ours—to prevent disruption in the nascent market for distributed solar power. Specifically, we seek your support for policies that will:

  1. ensure that solar customers are appropriately credited for the full value of the electricity they export to the grid (net-metering)
  2. prohibit the imposition of monthly solar user fees

Legislation introduced last year as part of the “Energy Freedom” package of bills would ensure fair treatment for rooftop solar customers, while creating a new opportunity for community solar gardens in Michigan as well. We ask for your support of these measures as well.

Decades of research and development has yielded affordable solar energy technology that can help our communities use the sun to become healthier and stronger while curbing the pollution that threatens our collective future. Please do not let Michigan’s utilities block customers reap the benefits of this amazing development.

We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience. We can be reached through Leah Wiste, Executive Director of Michigan Interfaith Power & Light, at 248-376-4603 or director@miipl.org .

Sincerely, 

100+ Faith Leaders

 

Cc: Rep. Joseph Bellino Jr., Rep. Pauline Wendzel, Sen. Dan Lauwers, Sen. Ken Horn 

* Energy poverty data comes from the Home Energy Affordability Gap study (Fisher, Sheehan and Colton, 2017)

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