What you need to know this week – 1/27/23

The Gov’s words: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued her State of State address Wednesday, calling to “increase domestic clean energy production, like wind and solar, so we can produce more energy in America instead of overseas,” and adding that “we must pursue climate action while creating jobs, lowering costs, and becoming a hub of clean energy production.” The governor pointed to her MI Healthy Climate Plan, calling on legislators to “make bold investments in climate action to deliver on its targets. Let’s get it done.”

Double the solar: The Michigan Public Service Commission has agreed to a rate hike for Consumers Energy customers with conditions including that the utility double its rooftop solar cap and increase its investment in electric vehicle charging, community solar, grid reliability, and residential heating electrification. The rate increase is 43% lower than the utility initially requested, amounting to $155 million. (MLive)

Coal ash crackdown: DTE Energy must stop depositing coal ash into surface water ponds at two coal-fired power plants due to inadequate protection of nearby groundwater. The EPA denied DTE’s application to continue the dumping at the Monroe plant along the River Raisin and the Belle River plant. The decision was one of several denials it issued Wednesday to requests from coal plants in five states to continue dumping ash into unlined or inadequately lined pits in violation of 2015 federal rules. These rules require pits without legally compliant liners to stop receiving coal ash by April 2021, but many companies have continued to ignore them. Coal ash contains toxic heavy metals that can seep into the environment and contaminate groundwater, soil, and air. (MLive, Energy News Network)

City lead program expands: The city’s federally funded lead abatement program has been expanded to additional southwest Detroit neighborhoods, including the 48209, 48210 and 48217 ZIP codes. Other eligible ZIP codes include 48202, 48204, 48206, and 48213 Mayor Mike Duggan has set a goal to complete lead abatement at 240 homes by 2024. The program launched in 2019 and initially set a goal to complete 455 homes by the end of 2023. Residents can learn more at the city’s website. (Detroit News, Planet Detroit)

A new academy: DTE Energy Co. and Detroit-based energy services firm Walker-Miller Energy Services are collaborating to create a new eight-week, paid training program to provide Detroiters with a pathway to skilled trades through energy efficiency. Participants who complete the program will be provided with certifications and connections to a starting role that pays at least $18 per hour and includes benefits. “Just about every building in this country needs to be retrofitted,” Carla Walker-Miller, CEO Walker-Miller, told The Detroit News. “The demand for energy specialists… is going to continue to increase, and the demand has already outpaced the supply. One of the most important things is that programs like ours and others need to scale.” (Detroit News)

Meter shortage: New constructions and renovations in need of water hookups across the city may have to wait due to a shortage in new meters that DWSD Director Gary Brown attributes to supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. Brown said the city might need to borrow meters from neighboring cities like Birmingham to cover the shortfall. (WDIV)

We are the grid: General Motors and Ford Motor Company are joining forces to create Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) to use the stored energy from electric vehicle batteries, smart home batteries, and solar panels to help meet high electricity demands. People who enroll in the program will be eligible for incentives. (Michigan Radio)

Ditching gas? As the gas stove controversy rages on, Michigan Citizens Utility Board director Amy Bandyk writes that your gas stove (and water heater, etc.) are only part of the story behind soaring energy costs. Michigan utilities like Consumers Energy and DTE are expecting residential electric rates to rise by around 10% in 2023, buying expensive gas to fuel power plants and then passing on the cost to customers. She writes that Michigan utilities “continue to emphasize gas over alternative sources,” she writes. “DTE’s recently-released integrated resource plan, for example, proposes converting coal plants to run on gas for years to come and leaves the door open to building new gas plants. This is precisely the plan that customers, regulators and policymakers should work together to fix.” (Bridge, Detroit News)

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