With one of the nation’s highest per capita solar adoption rates, Ypsilanti Michigan is fighting back against anti-solar legislation.
Michigan is just one of the many states where net metering of renewable energy projects is currently under attack as part of massive not-so-covert op by large fossil fuel interests. Rather than taking on the solar industry in a federal level, ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council) and other fossil fuel lobbying groups are fighting a state-by-state strategy, with surgical strikes on states that currently have strong net metering bills. Funded by the energy billionaire Koch Brothers, ALEC seeks champions in lower level republican state legislators who are looking to gain notoriety and curry favor with large local utility companies.
In Michigan, State Senator John Proos in the man carrying the water for the utilities.Last year, Proos introduced SB 438, a broad Republican-backed state energy plan that would, in part, eliminate Michigan’s solar net metering program and replace it with a policy that reimburses customers at wholesale prices after they have already bought their energy at retail rates from utilities.
Allan O’Shea, who runs CBS Solar in Manistee Michigan described the situation perfectly in an article at the Michigan Live website:
“It’s kind of like if I raise tomatoes in my garden, then I’m told I have to turn them into Meijer’s (grocery store) produce department and buy them back at ten times the price. It makes you scratch your head… (The solar industry) would all be decimated if this bill goes through as is.”
Meanwhile, 18 miles west of Detroit in Ypsilanti, City Council members are speaking out in response to the the attacks upon the Michigan solar industry. On may 17th, 2016, they unanimously passed Resolution No. 2016-109, which reads:
RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF YPSILANTI:
WHEREAS,the City of Ypsilanti supports solar power and strives to be a “Solar Destination”, and
WHEREAS, solar power is included in the City’s Master Plan, Capital Improvement Plan and Climate Action Plan, and
WHEREAS,the city has passed a resolution supporting a 1,000 solar roof goal of SolarYpsi, and
WHEREAS, the City has incorporated solar power in several of its public facilities including the
City Hall,DPS yard, Parkridge Community Center, Senior Center, and the FreightHouse, and
WHEREAS,the City worked successfully to have DTE Energy construct a solar array in the City of Ypsilanti, and
WHEREAS,the elimination of net metering by the pending Michigan Senate Bill 438 would negatively impact the expansion of solar energy and an emerging solar industry
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of Ypsilanti opposes the elimination of net metering, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to Representative David Rutledge, Senator Rebekah Warren, Kirk Profit and the Members of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee:
- Senator Mike Nofs, Chair, (R)19th District
- Senator John Proos, Vice Chair, (R) 21st District
- Senator Ken Horn (R) 32nd District
- Senator Tonya Schuitmaker (R) 26th District
- Senator Joe Hune (R) 22nd District
- Mike Shirkey(R) 16th District
- Senator Dale Zorn (R) 17th District
- Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D) 6th District
- David Knezek (D) 5th District
- Steven Bieda(D) 9th District
Ypsilanti (the home of Eastern Michigan University and known as “Ypsi” to locals) is ahaven of progressive thinkers and is home to more solar early adopters per capita than any other town in the state. SolarYpsi is a grass-roots effort in Ypsilanti dedicated to the use of renewable energy sources, with a goal of completing 1,000 local solar installations. The SolarYpsi website demonstrates their efforts in real time reporting of electrical production from solar panels. Launched in 2005 by the Ypsilanti Food Co-operative with a grant from the State of Michigan , SolarYpsi has partnered with Recycle Ann Arbor, and DTE Energy. SolarYpsi installed 12 solar panels on the Ypsilanti’s City Hall and the River Street Bakery, making it 100% solar powered. Obviously, SolarYpsi is working hard to make Ypsilanti a “solar destination,” and the Proos bill is targeted at stopping that development dead in its tracks. But Ypsi’s residents are making their voices heard.
National anti-solar groups like ALEC know that in statehouses across the country, they can outspend small, local organizations like SolarYpsi and influence state lawmakers with an army of utility company lobbyists. Also, they know national pro-solar NGOs like The Union of Concerned Scientists or the Solar Energy Industry Association cannot afford to put out these brushfires at state capitols all over the nation. The flaw in ALEC’s strategy is that state legislators love rubbing elbows with big-money supporters, but not as much as they fear losing their seats by angering a majority of voters in their district. This is what the Koch brothers and their ilk don’t understand…that they have already lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the average citizen. Numerous polls show an overwhelmingly positive opinion of solar among most Americans. A recent poll in North Carolina conducted on behalf of Conservatives for Clean Energy found that more than 86 percent of voters support policies that encourage the development of renewable energy, and in Nevada, another state embroiled in a net metering battle, over 70% of those participation in the poll supported protection for current solar owners against net metering roll-backs.
While Ypsilanti’s Council members take official action and grassroots opposition to the fossil lobby and their attacks on indie solar grows, Beyond Extreme Energy is engaged in direct action in and around the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) offices in Washington DC. BXE’s #rubberstamprebellion campaign has gone as far as to protesting outside of the private homes of FERC members in an attempt to bring media attention to their cause.
— Sane Energy Project (@SaneEnergy) May 17, 2016