Andy Balaskovitz, Energy News Network
The legislation would prohibit standby fees but allows an “equitable” cost of service charge by utilities.
State Rep. Steven Johnson, a western Michigan Republican in his second term, says his first priority on energy policy is to “look out for ratepayers.”
That’s a driving theme behind his recently sponsored bill to expand the use of microgrids in Michigan. Johnson wants to bring the state up to speed on the emerging technology while allowing utility customers to be more self-sufficient and resilient during outages.
The bill, a component of an “energy freedom” package that failed to advance last session, already faces skepticism from a major utility.
“It’s not my job to look out on behalf of utilities,” said Johnson, who sponsored a similar bill last year. “They might be concerned our legislation hurts their bottom line, but this will be good for ratepayers.”
HB 4477 is the first step in what could be a broader push in Michigan to expand the use of microgrids, which allow utilities or their customers to build distributed generation in a small, closed network able to island itself off from the grid during outages. The bill is cosponsored by three Democrats and two Republicans. Lawmakers have proposed microgrid legislation for at least five years.
Microgrids are relatively uncommon in the Midwest compared to other regions, and generally involve private entities. Consumers Energy has launched pilot microgrid concepts in Jackson and Grand Rapids, though they don’t have islanding capabilities.
Johnson’s bill sets a framework for allowing utilities and private entities to create microgrids for “critical facilities” — such as hospitals, police and fire stations, and correctional facilities — during outages. The microgrids would be able to serve other facilities if they are “electrically contiguous” to critical buildings.