Would DTE Energy fees kill rooftop solar in Michigan?

CO2 2022/2021 417.64 ppm / 417.31 ppm

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Killing solar: DTE Energy’s proposed fees for rooftop solar could effectively kill it, according to Ben Inskeep, principal energy policy analyst for EQ-Research. DTE wants to charge customers a fee based on the three highest hour-long demands for energy over the past year. Inskeep says this fee could be $100 a month or more for the average customer. "I certainly can't imagine any customer ever wanting to take service under this proposal," he said. "It would be too draconian and would completely erode any financial benefit one would receive from putting solar on their rooftops." He also says the utility’s proposal to cut the credits solar customers receive for putting energy back on the grid could reduce them by half. (Michigan Radio)

Winter is changing: A break up of winter ice on Lake Erie stranded a group of snowmobilers recently, requiring the U.S. Coast Guard and a local boater to rescue them from an ice floe. The event serves as a reminder of the changing face of winter on the Great Lakes. Researchers predict that parts of the lakes will stop icing over altogether by 2055, imperiling fish species like whitefish and yellow perch, whose eggs benefit from ice cover. Open waters could be a boon for shipping, although researchers question whether shallow connecting channels might remain frozen and pose obstacles. Scientists sponsored by the University of Michigan and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are fanning out to study the lake this winter. “Winter is rapidly changing on the Great Lakes, but our ability to understand and predict the consequences of those changes is impeded by a shortage of winter-period studies on most aspects of Great Lakes limnology,” project leader Ted Ozersky, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, said in a press release. (Grist, Bridge)

Ice cover on Lake Michigan was observed at 26.7% on 2/8/22. Average peak coverage: 39.8% on 2/13. Source: climatecentral.com

Constant comment: A piece in Forbes praised Michigan’s climate plan–which looks to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030 and end coal fire generation by 2035–saying it’s only the fourth goal of its kind nationwide. Among other benefits, the plan could drive demand for electric vehicles produced in the state by investing in EV charging infrastructure. But while the state is finalizing its plan, the author says Michigan should avoid transitioning to methane gas infrastructure as a “bridge fuel”, something the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) could influence by requiring utilities to take an “all-source procurement” approach to new energy sources, where they evaluate the full range of generation technology that’s available. Another major weakness of the plan, according to the piece, is its failure to look at industrial emissions and those from buildings, which make up roughly 20% and 12% of statewide emissions respectively. Have your own take on the climate plan? The state has extended its public comment period for the plan to March 14; residents can email their comments to EGLE-ClimateSolutions@Michigan.gov. (Forbes, Yale Climate Connections, MLive)

Conflicts of interest: State regulators are enlisting a consulting firm to evaluate the potential of “renewable natural gas” or biogas to generate energy in the state. But the firm doing the consulting, ICF, has ties with DTE and Consumers, raising concerns about the company’s ability to deliver an impartial evaluation at a time when investor-owned utilities are zeroing in on “renewable natural gas” as a way to protect their investments in gas infrastructure. Unlike fossil fuel gas, biogas comes from landfills, animal manure and other organic sources and it produces fewer greenhouse gasses. Still, studies have shown that methane leaks from biogas make it a bad option for preventing global heating and the necessity of feedstocks from landfills and farm waste could encourage practices that have additional negative impacts on things like water and air quality. “It’s a bad deal for ratepayers, and it’s kind of infuriating because solutions that exist right now are cheaper and better – solar energy, wind energy,” said Mike Berkowitz, an organizer with Sierra Club Michigan’s Beyond Coal campaign. “These will truly decarbonize our energy grid.” (Planet Detroit)

New design: Detroit will host an international conference in November for designers and artists working on climate change adaptation. "Global actions to slow climate change are promising but insufficient. “While designers have questioned their responsibilities for 25 years, few have focused on how people live in a changing environment," Maria Luisa Rossi, Cumulus Detroit 2022 conference chair and chair of MFA Systems Design Thinking at the College for Creative Studies said in a statement. "This emergency–without precedent–requires bold and creative thinking. Design for Adaptation will bring hundreds of the world's most brilliant and creative minds together to rally around this timely and imperative topic." The Cumulus Conference – Design for Adaptation will take place at CSS November 2-4. (Crain’s)

Explosive technology: The Wisconsin-based utility WEC Energy plans to use a 25% hydrogen blend at one of its methane gas plants in the Upper Peninsula, technology that some have endorsed as a way to eliminate emissions from industries like aviation and trucking that could be hard to electrify. But so-called “green hydrogen” requires large quantities of renewable energy to power electrolysis plants that split water into oxygen and hydrogen. “It does not occur in nature so it requires energy to separate,” wrote energy analyst Michael Liebreich. “Its storage requires compression to 700 times atmospheric pressure, refrigeration to 253 degrees Celsius… It carries one quarter the energy per unit volume of natural gas… It can embrittle metal; it escapes through the tiniest leaks and yes, it really is explosive.” However, some hope renewables could be used to produce hydrogen in the spring and fall, when energy needs are at their lowest, that can then be used during summer and winter. (Utility Dive, Yale 360)

What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at nina@planetdetroit.org. NOTE: Please don't reply directly to this email, it will go into a digital netherworld.


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