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Opinion | Lansing is blocking sustainable growth in Grand Rapids

Choosing solar energy isn’t just about reducing health-harming air pollution and protecting Michigan’s natural beauty. It’s also about saving money. And in Grand Rapids it can help save valuable taxpayer dollars.

George Heartwell

Grand Rapids city government works tirelessly to provide essential services at the best value for our community. One way the city can do more is by investing in rooftop solar for city-owned buildings. Under current solar savings policies, the city can sell excess energy back to the grid and get a credit on their bill equal to the retail rate of purchasing electricity. This simple savings mechanism known as "net metering" can help the city and our residents save with solar.

But distributed energy resources like rooftop solar are currently capped at 1 percent for each of Michigan's energy utilities. And we’ve just hit that cap for solar in Consumers Energy territory, Michigan's largest utility, which provides service to Grand Rapids and millions of customers throughout the state. I know from talking to mayors and colleagues from other states that this legislative cap is arbitrary and restrictive. Consumers Energy intends to voluntarily raise that cap to 2 percent and I congratulate them on that decision, but we will need leadership from the legislature for a comprehensive solution.

We also need our state regulators at the Public Service Commission to start planning for what comes next for solar. The Commission is currently considering new electricity rates, and as part of that work must initiate a Value of Solar study so that cities, businesses and families can continue to get a fair value for clean, renewable, homegrown energy they send back to the grid. Michigan: the time to lead on solar is now.

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