Michigan shrinks credits for rooftop solar, clouding industry’s future

Al Warner stands outside of the energy-efficient home he built in Brighton. On his roof: solar thermal panels that help heat his water, saving on gas, and photovoltaic panels that help power his home. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

About this story

This story is part of a multi-newsroom collaborative project called Middle America's Low-Hanging Carbon: The Search for Greenhouse Gas Cuts from the Grid, Agriculture and Transportation. The effort, led by the nonprofit news organization InsideClimate News, includes 14 Midwest newsrooms and aims to give readers local and regional perspectives on climate change. For more, click here.

BRIGHTON — Most people view a utility bill as a hassle. Al Warner sees opportunity.

Each bill offers the retired engineer fresh data to plug into a spreadsheet charting his progress towards dual goals: slashing his fossil fuel consumption and saving on monthly energy costs.

“I’m trying to do everything I can to do the right thing for my children and my grandchildren,” said Warner, who fears world leaders are moving too slowly to cut greenhouse gas emissions speeding climate change.

The 71-year-old lives with his wife Jean in an energy-efficient home he built along a lake in Brighton in Livingston County. The couple has poured thousands of dollars into energy upgrades. In 2008, Warner installed a solar thermal system atop his roof. It collects the sun’s energy to partially heat water for showers, saving natural gas. The Warners stay cool in the summer thanks to a separate system relying on well water, a heat exchanger and a fan; it requires far less electricity than a traditional air conditioner.

Related: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer opens up more Michigan farmland to solar power

In 2017, Warner began generating his own solar power, installing an 8-kilowatt photovoltaic system to his roof. When it’s too cloudy, he’s plugged into the grid for backup. When the panels generate more than he needs, Warner’s system adds surplus electricity to the grid. The power flows to neighboring homes, which pay DTE Energy, which serves 2.2. million electric customers in Southeast Michigan, to use it.

Under a state program called net metering, DTE compensates Warner and other self-generators for their extra power — at the full retail rate the utility charges for electricity. Over the course of a year, Warner generates about as much surplus power as his house and electric car buy from DTE, effectively zeroing out an annual bill that was more than $1,500 before he installed panels. In 2018, he paid DTE just a $102 “connect fee.”

“This is what the utility is concerned about,” he said, pointing to a spreadsheet on his laptop showing his savings.

Michigan is overhauling its policy for compensating renewable energy-generating ratepayers after lobbying from utilities including DTE and Consumers Energy. In a landmark decision in a battle over fairness and control of Michigan’s renewable energy future, the Michigan Public Service Commission this month approved a new program for DTE customers that will shrink their credits for surplus power. The vote was part of a larger order that increases rates for all customers.

When the sun’s not shining, Al Warner’s solar power system relies on utility DTE Energy for electricity. When the panels generate more electricity than he needs, Warner’s system adds surplus electricity to the grid, and DTE must compensate him. Over the course of a year, those credits roughly cancel out his bill. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

The decision upends the economics of rooftop solar as Michiganders are increasingly generating their own power. More than 3,400 customers signed up for net metering through 2017, up from more than 2,100 two years earlier, according to the commission’s most recent figures. Solar company officials say they’ve since hooked up thousands more folks encouraged by policies like net metering and declining technology costs.

But that segment of self-generating customers, however small a fraction, challenged utilities’ business model. General Electric called such scattered energy generation “the single most disruptive and transformational influence in the history of the electric grid.”

DTE and utilities nationwide argue customers being paid full retail price for surplus electricity don’t pay their fair share to maintain the power grid customers uses as a backup. They shave too much from their monthly bills, utilities say, shifting costs to lower-income customers. DTE contends each net metering customer shifted $444 to $1,700 in costs to other customers.

As pollution-spewing coal plants retire, utilities say building out larger scale renewables — systems utilities control — is more efficient.

“It wasn’t about bottom line. It wasn’t that it affected our profitability,” DTE CEO Gerry Anderson told Bridge Magazine before the commission vote. “The people who generally invest in rooftop solar tend to be more well-off. And if you do the math, they tend to be subsidized by the balance of customers.”

The commission rejected a far less generous DTE proposal for self-generators, but the vote angered renewable energy advocates and proponents of energy choice. They call small-scale generation an overall benefit to the grid that regulators should encourage.

“This order fails to ensure that homeowners and businesses receive a fair price for the surplus electricity they make available on the grid, making a legislative correction necessary,” said Ed Rivet, executive director of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, a Lansing-based nonprofit that advocates for more for renewable energy based upon conservative principles.

Longer payback

Forty states require net metering for self-generators, according to the federally-funded Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

But Michigan is among several states rethinking compensation for rooftop solar. That includes Indiana, whose Legislature replaced metering in 2017 with a program lowering compensation to solar owners. The change fueled a 93 percent plunge in growth for the state’s solar industry, according to the Indianapolis Star.  

Arizona last year also lowered credits for rooftop solar. Two other states — Maine and Nevada — recently restored net metering programs they previously spiked.

Michigan’s new “inflow-outflow” model still credits customers for extra electricity, but only after subtracting presumed transmission costs. The model will first apply to new DTE customers, and it will guide regulators the next time they consider new rates for Consumers Energy and other utilities in Michigan.

New rates approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission would add about four years to an average DTE rooftop solar owner’s “payback” period — how long takes to break even (through energy rate savings) after installing solar panels. This chart assumes the homeowner paid about $11,000 for their 6.28-kilowatt-hour system after claiming a 30 percent federal tax credit. (Source: Michigan Public Service Commission)

Sally Talberg, who chairs the Public Service Commission, said the new policy “fully compensates the customer for energy and capacity,” and reflects a legislative directive to overhaul the program. She said interest in the decision was “unprecedented” –  3,000-plus public comments — mostly in support of the state’s original policy.

Customers like Warner won’t immediately see their credits change. They can finish their contracts with DTE, earning surplus power at retail rates for up to 10 years. Credits for new customers will shrink by about 45 percent.

Homeowners who pay $11,000 after a 30 percent federal tax credit to install a 6.28-kilowatt solar system, for instance, could have recouped their investment after nine years through net metering. The new policy would push the payback to 13 years.

DTE wanted the commission to slash credits even further while adding a roughly $15 per-month “system access fee.”  That rejected proposal would have lengthened payback to nearly 18 years.

Jayson Waller, CEO of installer POWERHOME Solar, said the overhaul could lower demand for installations and his profits. The company has 300 employees in Michigan, its largest market across seven states and the only one ditching net metering.

“We’re going to find some financing,” Waller said. “We’ll find a way...to let folks own their power in Michigan, because they deserve choice.”

Tom Gallery, owner and engineer for Northport-based Leelanau Solar, expects the changes to gradually kill small-scale solar power in Michigan.

That’s based on his experience installing solar panels inside the six-county territory of Cherryland Electric Co-op, which serves 35,000 customers in the Northwest Lower Peninsula and is not regulated by the state.

Cherryland last year slashed solar credits by 47 percent, and new installations screeched to a halt, Gallery said.

“Once the payback [on the investment] goes over 10 years, people just roll their eyes and walk away,” he said.

What’s fair?  

State law already limited net metering to 1 percent of a utility’s peak demand. That means utilities could stop enrolling ratepayers in the program once the scattered installations collectively reached that ceiling.

Upper Peninsula Power Co., which serves a swath of the Upper Peninsula and charges some of the country’s highest rates, hit the cap in 2016 after more than 100 small-scale customers signed up.

The state’s largest utilities — DTE, which serves Southeast Michigan, and Consumers Energy, which covers much of the Lower Peninsula — have yet to reach the ceiling, and may be slower to reach it in a new era without net metering.

The policy’s gradual demise began in 2016. In overhauling the state’s energy market, Michigan lawmakers instructed regulators to reconsider net metering and develop “just and reasonable” rates “in the public interest.”

Calling the original policy a “subsidy” for self-generation, DTE echoes utility officials nationwide who have fought net metering policies — arguments circulated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative policy group.

Michigan Public Service Commission staffers agreed.

In a 2016 paper, Robert Ozar, assistant director of the commission’s Electric Reliability Division, called net metering “intrinsically a subsidized” service, giving customers “essentially free grid-services.” Commission staffers later cited a “lack of price transparency” in the program because costs “do not accurately reflect a customer’s actual level of grid use.”

Gerry Anderson is CEO of DTE Energy. (Courtesy photo)

When more people generate their own power, utilities say, that pushes costs to maintain the electric grid to those who can’t afford five-figure solar systems.

“Look, I’ve got brothers, one whose house is covered in solar panels, and I think that’s great,” DTE CEO Anderson told Bridge. “But my brother can afford them, and I think if my brother wants to do that, he should not ask people to subsidize him.”

Warner, the Brighton solar owner, acknowledges he fits a similar profile: A retiree sitting on a healthy nest egg who can afford to invest thousands of dollars to lessen his impact on the environment and fiddle with his system as a hobby.

But as he reads more about climate change and looks at his affluent neighbors’ roofs — bare of solar panels, he figures Michigan should encourage anyone go solar. Warner agrees he should pay his fair share, but he’s skeptical about the calculations of DTE and state regulators about what’s fair.

Net metering advocates point to papers from the Brookings Institute and the Institute for Energy Innovation that call rooftop solar a net benefit to the grid when considering its environmental value and availability during peak energy demand. A 2017 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report described the effect of distributed generation on utility rates as “quite small compared to many other issues.”

Officials at DTE and Consumers Energy have touted commitments to building out renewables as they pursue goals to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 2040 (80 percent for DTE, and 90 percent for Consumers). It’s far cheaper and efficient, they point out, for utilities to build large solar farms instead of hooking thousands of homes to the grid.

“When you can do the math on one rooftop, you can make a case that it is most economic for this one case. But you’re not looking at the system.” Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe told Bridge last month.

“We have the opportunity to have a clean and lean energy system for Michigan, but it has to be optimized," said Poppe, who added Consumers Energy was watching regulators as it weighs its next proposal to revalue home energy generation.

Advocates for low-income ratepayers say the changes will add challenges for Michiganders trying to lower their energy bills at a time when rates are climbing higher each year.

DTE and utilities nationwide argue net metering customers don’t pay their fair share for plugging into the grid as backup, shifting costs to lower-income customers. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

Michigan should instead help more residents access local solar power, said Jackson Koeppel, executive director of Soulardarity. The nonprofit brought solar-powered street lights to Highland Park after DTE in 2011 repossessed two-thirds of streetlights in the city that is within Detroit’s boundaries.

Soulardarity is now examining solar options for residents who spend up to a third of their income on energy.

“We’ll try to make it work no matter what,” said Koeppel. “But we think that a fair policy that really addresses the history of unfairness in communities like Highland Park is going to make it work a lot better.”

Editor’s Note: Both the Consumers Energy Foundation and DTE Energy Foundation are donors to The Center for Michigan, the parent organization of Bridge Magazine. Their contributions did not influence the reporting or direction of this article. A full list of funders is available here.

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Mon, 05/20/2019 - 7:09am

That makes his home look so ugly as it blights the community. I would never allow my Homeowner's Association to allow that.

Cindy M
Mon, 08/26/2019 - 6:29am

That’s a temporary situation. New solar grid systems match old roof tiles, and are more durable. If we had embraced solar and wind power thirty years ago we’d have a different Michigan today. Air quality would have improved and those hideous power structures would be coming down! 1800 technology in 2000!

Jim tomlinson
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 8:36am

Mich needs to be in the vanguard of next gen policy not a laggard

John Darling
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 8:50am

Geez....not surprised that the utilities are fighting to maintain their monopolies on our electrical grid. I believe the state regulators should encourage rooftop / distributed power generation. The utilities could use their position to enhance the grid for everyone, petitioning the rate commission for funding to accommodate individual access to the grid. It’s ok for the inefficient providers (fossil fuel) to subsidize the efficient (non-fossil fuel). That’s how a capitalist system nudges in the direction we need to go.
These utilities and their ALEC counterparts have deep enough pockets to stamp it out here in MI before it really gets started. Seems that’s what has happened.
Big Fossil Fuel wins again. Our grandkids and their progeny lose.

Marco Menezes
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 10:13am

In deciding to buy the utilities' arguments and ditch net metering for its new "input-output" arrangement, the PSC did no serious study of the costs and benefits of fossil fuels vs solar. Until regulators account for the full economic and social costs of producing and burning fossil fuels for electricity (pollution, health effects, climate change, etc) there can be no accurate cost comparison between those technologies and photovoltaics. In states where those studies have been conducted by independent experts, the utilities' "subsidy" argument falls apart.

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 1:40pm

PSC is powerless and totally under the control of the utility industry. They do not regulate the industry at all and are just a prop to try and pretend to consumers that they have a say. The PSC is a joke and the folks there know it and will tell you how little power they truly have (none).

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 10:27am

DTE and Consumers, and MPSC have not demonstrated that distributed solar is subsidized by other rate payers. This argument is unfounded. Yes, those with distributed solar should pay for grid service and those rate payers do pay all the fees connected with their utility hookups. But, please, let's not muddy the waters by making false statements. Let's talk about how we can move to decarbonize our energy sources and combat global warming urgently. I don't see Consumers or DTE doing that yet. They are stuck in their old mindset.

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 10:53am

The Michigan PSC again demonstrates their level of complicity with the two big public polluters and the PSC forgets the state mandate to protect and defend the public users against the depredations of the profit-hungry polluting energy producers. "Curran" is right on - no evidence, just conjecture supporting the utility's position. They want to keep their profits and their executive's salaries.

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 1:00pm

You are incorrect. Both DTE and Consumer's have more than adequately demonstrated that the previous net metering rate substantially subsidized customers with solar panels on their homes. Studying the new small distributed generators rate from DTE, it looks to me like that subsidy is worth almost 30% of the utility's average delivered cost for each kWhr that's used by the solar home owner, whether self-generated or provided by the grid.

Given that solar installers, even the "zero money down" lease-based installers, only work with home owners who have significant equity and good credit ratings, that translates into a substantial subsidy to the better-off. That subsidy increases the price paid for electricity by the utility customers who rent, have poor credit ratings, or who live in areas where solar power is impractical. That's entirely unfair, now that solar power is being widely touted by environmentalists as "cheaper than any other power source". Solar power is cheaper, at noontime in May. But net metering allows solar generators to use the grid as a giant battery for free. That is simply unsustainable for all utilities anywhere, but especially for rural electric co-ops and smaller utilities everywhere.

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 11:27am

Bridge, it sure appears you've fallen into the lure of clever propagandists that are turning this into a "haves vs. have not's" issue rather than a common sense issue that the monopolies should be tripping over each other to get behind. You totally missed the fact that at peak midday power, the utility may be paying 4 or 5 time the retail rate for power if it needs it, on the spot market. This is a wholesale theft from smallscale producers that never see the benefit of those high spot market prices, though the power company does. Net metering was a compromise on this. If connection cost is higher than we are being charged, raise it, but dont argue that connection cost is subsidized from the per kilowatt rate. the power provider's arguments are not transparent or genuous. Dig deeper, please!

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 11:59am

Interesting that this article speaks to the state lowering tax credits for solar production by individuals to in effect shelter the big power companies. The very next article speaks to Consumers Energy moving to solar energy. The state and consumers want us to use less energy , is this so Consumers can sell the “saved energy “ on the grid for big $ ?

Steve Fosdick
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 12:18pm

I am dismayed with the MPSC in allowing DTE two different but related decisions:
First, they have approved $1,000,000,000 (thats 1 BILLION dollars) in a new polluting gas plant in St Clair County for 1,100 MW of annual production. It doesnt appear that DTE is interested in renewables like they say they are. To put these numbers is perspective that is $900 per kW... You can put up small scale solar (homeowner rooftop solar) easily for $300 kW, so why is the MPSC allowing DTE to spend and recoup up to $950 million dollar from its rate payers for this "new gas plant" and (decision 2) at the same time allowing DTE new net metering rates to effectively stop the small homeowner grid tied systems? Who is it the MPSC is suppose to protect? Why isnt the State Legislature looking into what appears to be industry friendly/consumer unfriendly actions? Both decisions have been challenge extensively and yet the MPSC seems to not hear the renewable side.... why is that?

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 1:44pm

'Why isnt the State Legislature looking into what appears to be industry friendly/consumer unfriendly actions?
Follow the money. Consumers don't send legislators enough in bribes, er, 'campaign contributions' to even register on their political radar. We have the 'best legislature money can buy'. We consumers / voters don't really matter.
Oh, and the Republican Party believes that voting should be reduced to the size that it can be drowned in a bath time via gerrymandering.

John Putt
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 12:50pm

I don't get the DTE math. If one gives energy back to them instead of using it (and gets paid for it), it seems to me to be a break even deal. That's energy DTE doesn't have to generate. The argument that it costs other users money doesn't seem to make any sense. And to boot, the energy generated by DTE is used when the system is not adequate to generate enough solar energy. Please explain, someone. The argument for a change seems to not hold water.

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 2:06pm

I totally agree with John Putt. The break even deal saves DTE building huge generating plants. This is a win win situation now the DTE monopoly is not happy making something they want more plus some. This is wrong for Michigan. This is good clean energy.

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 11:08am

That's not the way power generation works!!! They had to generate the power anyway but since the sun was whining or wind blowing at that moment, the specific homeowner didn't pay for it yet the rate payers as a whole were still stuck with this cost. The incremental power that home owner might have needed had to still be available in case his "renewable sources" weren't up to the challenge. This is why your renewables stick it to the regular non-affluent rate payers!

Tom T
Sat, 10/19/2019 - 9:40am

If the homeowner doesn't need the power, there is a good chance that we don't need their power. Selling power back to us during low demand does NOTHING to decrease generating requirements. Solar panels are very selfish endeavor.

Bobby Lectric
Wed, 11/06/2019 - 6:17pm

The underlying message from utilities who peddle this reverse robinhood narrative, cooked up at some lobbyist's backyard BBQ no doubt, is a tongue-in-cheek, sheepish admission that "OUR CONTINUOUS LOAD GROWTH MODEL IS BROKEN!!!". They didn't want to give up their 12% guaranteed return on equity (ROE) built into their rates until they were forced to read the writing on the wall. That ROE is about 10,000% more than what that poor person they're so noblely defending can get at their local credit union for their hard earned cash. That's what this is about. They're saying, "WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO DOWNSIZE.", and what's more the MPSC's rate structure and beloved paradigm isn't built to downsize either. So the same old bloated and inefficient utility model..... you know the one, where it takes 3 times as many people as reasonable to get the job done as it would a private company....is going to cost everyone X regardless of whether you saved them from spending dollars on premium fuel. The bottom line is they will still have to maintain the power plants they put that fuel into, whether they use them or not. What is coming, and thus what we should be asking our regulators is who is going to bail out these bloated IOU's when the democratization of the energy economy breaks the current paradigm. It won't be the poor people with their hand out, it'll be the Gerry Anderson's and now Jerry Norcia's of the world. "A growth paradigm is fine, until it's not", says the history of the world.

Saulius Mikalonis
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 3:32pm

I wrote this a while back, but it still holds true:

"So, what are the benefits of promoting distributed energy? Recently several states have decided to conduct cost-benefit studies of net metering. For example, the California Public Utilities Commission conducted an evaluation of the impacts of net metering on ratepayers, with solar power being the primary focus, which concluded that net metering actually resulted in a small net financial benefit to utilities. The economic benefits take the form of avoided energy costs, transmission costs and upgrades for capacity. Nonmonetary benefits include reduced toxic air and greenhouse gas emissions from large-scale plants, reductions in water use and local job creation.

"Other states studying the cost-benefits of net metering have been consistent with California’s findings. Michigan has not conducted a cost-benefit analysis of its net metering program, although a Michigan Public Service Commission study group has reviewed other states’ studies in connection with its review of DTE’s and Consumers Power’s residential solar programs."


Al Warner
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 3:43pm

By the numbers:
Situation: Retired couple, 3000 ft^2 energy efficient house, gas forced air furnace with heat exchanger for well water cooling (No A/C), south facing 8 KW roof top solar installed 9/17, Volt driven 9000 mi, 95% on battery

4/18/17 Before Solar
Annual Inflow for House 6028 KWH
Annual Inflow for Car 3616 KWH
Total 9644 KWH = $1518
Avoided fuel cost (23 mpg @ $2.40/gal) = $939
12/31/18 After Solar
Annual Inflow for house and car 5653 KWH = $102 (connect fees)
Annual Outflow 5982 KWH
Annual Inverter Meter 8410 KWH (Solar total output)
Annual total consumption for house and car 8081 KWH
(Less because 1 month vacation)
There is a fundamental unfairness in that solar amps outflowed to my neighbors loads are billed to my neighbor at retail as if DTE's generation and transmission supplied it. DTE is getting free power at those instances. The MPSC made a King Solomon ruling that split the baby.

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 3:41pm

But Al, they had to generate power anyway just in the very possible case your system didn't provide any! On good windy or sunny days they have excess power. Your power is not predictable or consistent therefore has little to no value to DTE.

Al Warner
Thu, 05/23/2019 - 8:31pm

But Matt, it does have value. My neighbors power is generated, at times, by my solar panel outflow, not by DTE. Less coal /natural gas is burned to hold the grid voltage constant. Less CO2 is produced. Remember that with inflow/outflow measurement, net metering users purchase their inflow just like any other customer at retail because they are using DTE's grid to deliver that power from miles away - as they should. Regardless of the conventional arguments, I've significantly reduced my grid demand and annually net zero CO2 output. That's why I invested.

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 6:04pm

Why does a retired couple live in a 3000 sq/ft house?

James F Bish
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 8:42pm

The fight is on; as the for profit utilities try to maintain their monopoly in the face of rapidly expanding solar (& wind) technology, which we (John Q Public) are trying to harness to directly benefit us, not the monopoly shareholders.
Hailing from a state (Nebraska) where for profit utilities are prevented from operating by state law & where utility rates are "greatly" lower than ours; I take a dim view of DTEs & Consumers Powers manovering.

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 10:38pm

Bring on low-cost solar and wind, storage batteries, microgrids, electric cars and no need for DTE, Dead Utility Walking. This is all happening faster than predicted and the economic forces will overwhelm monopoly control.
With the Great Lakes MI can be a net exporter of energy not spending over $2B/yr buying energy from others.
Industry will love clean predictable cost renewable energy and flock to those who can generate it like Michigan. We have some of the best wind potential in the US with the Great Lakes that surround us.
DTE is getting huge subsidies with nuclear insured by the citizens, pollution cost push off to future generations and dump sites, like the old polluted and polluting our Huron River, Gasification Plant in Ann Arbor to be cleaned up by taxpayers not by the Responsible Party, DTE. There is Polluter Pay Legislation again submitted in Lansing, look out DTE and other polluters.

Vince Caruso
Sat, 05/25/2019 - 5:53pm

One more point. Michigan is facing much larger storms with Global Warming affecting the state, it's residents and the wildlife. 500-year mega storms are now common in Michigan. We need to move now to much less polluting emissions of CO2, not to mention mercury and other toxic emissions. Solar and wind have been shown to clearly have this cost-effective potential. Vermont Green Mountain Power saved $1/2 M last summer using connected solar, wind and batteries, and they are just getting started. This is not rocket science and our children and grandchildren will have to deal with our inaction so no time to waste. Lead, follow or get out of the way.

Maureen Martin
Fri, 05/24/2019 - 5:30pm

The ‘Institute for Energy Innovation’ is not affiliated with University of Michigan in any way. It is an arm of an energy trade group. Please fix.

Tom Gallery
Fri, 05/24/2019 - 10:00pm

The author (Jim Malewitz) conveniently ignored the data I supplied showing how the new net metering ruling will generate $2-3 million in annual profit for DTE. Each net-zero, net metering customer (like Al Warner) will supply 30-40% of their solar production to DTE as excess summer generation. DTE will pay them 7.5c/kWh for that generation and then immediately sell it to the nearest neighbors for full retail - 16.5c/kWh. A profit of 9c/kWh hour for doing nothing! They didn't pay for the generating facility, they didn't pay for the lines that deliver solar energy to the neighbor. That was paid for by the solar owner and the neighbors. Excess solar energy never goes to the local substation and never goes to the main grid. The quoted per-site "cost" to DTE is actually profit for the company. Multiply that by the 5,000 net metering customers and DTE makes a no-investment profit of $2-3 million. That's how solar works in Michigan: Excess generation in summer and energy deficit in winter. Solar customers pay DTE full retail for winter energy. I fully agree with other commenters that MPSC is completely owned by the utilities and their lobbying arms. Small solar owners and solar installers have no say in this process. Facts have nothing to do with MPSC decisions.

Paul Jordan
Thu, 06/06/2019 - 10:20pm

The fact is that MOST of the electricity bill is comprised of fees that have nothing to do with the amount of electricity that is used. Among these are charges to compensate the power company for the grid that supplies the electricity. (These fees were added years ago when free marketeers in the legislature thought it would be good if we could buy power from alternative power providers.)

DTE's arguments are, therefore, totally bogus. They just want to preserve their virtual monopoly on the generation of power.

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Dan Moerman
Wed, 09/16/2020 - 10:42am

What this leaves out is that when I put power into the grid, DTE sells it! At full price, significantly less than they pay me for it. They make a profit on the power that I produce for them.

Geoffrey Owen
Wed, 12/16/2020 - 2:33pm

I'm not sure I understand the concept that the power companies are subsidizing the solar consumer. If I hook my solar generator to the grid I pay a premium on occassions that I buy electric. I pay for being hooked up and I pay for metered usage. But when my generated electricity enters the grid I am paid a pittance (none of the math is presented in this article) of about a third of what they charge me. The fact is that my capital invested in the grid is being discounted. The utilities are allowed to charge to cover both the cost of generation and the cost of capital. Seems to me that the Solar owner is subsidizing the Utility and not the other way around. With battery efficiency improving, the utilities will assault us again in Lansing because we won't need to be on the grid at all. The legislature needs to be on board the fight to stop climate change, and be behind the technologies and the investments the people make to get us there.