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Opinion | Public Service Commission should halt the undermining solar energy

DTE Energy is proposing to raise electric rates by $351 million which would increase residential bills by about 8.8 percent. DTE is also proposing drastic new rates for homeowners and businesses that install a solar energy system to save money and promote a clean environment.

John Richter headshot
John Richter is senior policy analyst for the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. (Courtesy photo)

DTE is proposing to change what they pay solar owners for the extra solar electricity that solar owners export back to the grid.  Right now, DTE pays about 8 cents per kilowatt-hour for this extra solar electricity, but they are proposing to only pay about 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. DTE takes this extra solar electricity and sells it to customers in the same neighborhood for 16 cents per kilowatt-hour. So DTE is under-valuing solar energy and then making money on the backs of solar owners.

This is just wrong and must be stopped.

DTE is also proposing to make solar owners start paying two new monthly fees called “Demand Charges” that would add about $66 per month. The goal of DTE is to make owning solar so expensive that a solar owner won’t save money and therefore undercuts the financial reason for installing solar.

This is an obvious ploy by DTE to stop ratepayers from installing their own solar system and therefore stopping a source of free market competition.

Even if these proposals are rejected, DTE will close the “Distributed Generation” program for residential solar customers sometime next year.  Their alternative rate plan will pay solar customers much less for their excess energy, and the rate isn’t known until the end of each month. DTE wants to continue being a monopoly utility and forcing people and businesses to buy their expensive electricity that gets more expensive every year! Electric rates in Michigan are already the highest in the upper Midwest.

DTE knows they can’t compete with solar and they don’t want to lose customers, so DTE is trying to eliminate the solar market in Michigan by raising fees and reducing the price they pay for solar energy.

Homeowners and small businesses have had the right since 2008 to install and generate electricity that saves money and promotes a clean environment.  DTE should not be allowed to sabotage Michigan’s solar industry.

I urge the Michigan Public Service Commission to reject DTE’s proposals.

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