Democratic lawmakers won amendments adding more energy efficiency and a renewable goal to the energy overhaul package passed out of the House Energy Policy Committee on Thursday night.
The bill package includes house bill 4297 and HB 4298, which together amend broad energy policy including that surrounding renewables, energy choice, energy efficiency and rate processes that happen through the Michigan Public Service Commission.
It was Rep. Julie Plawecki, D-Dearborn Heights, who proposed adding into HB 4297 a goal of Michigan getting 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources and energy waste reduction by 2025. She emphasized that it was a goal, not a mandate.
Current Michigan law includes a mandate of 10 percent by 2015, which the state is poised to meet.
“We have this multibillion dollar industry for renewable energy, so why would we not want to continue that?” Plawecki asked.
Earlier this year Democrats proposed a mandate of 20 percent renewables by 2022. But this is closer to what Gov. Rick Snyder outlined — an encouraged but not required mix of up to 40 percent renewables by 2025.
Jack Schmitt, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, said this was a step in the right direction but questions remained.
“I think we’ve got some questions about the language of ‘goal,’ period,” Schmitt said.
Democrats won a different change to HB 4298 that added energy efficiency incentives. Under the new language, utilities get increasing incentives for programs that provide more efficiency.
DTE Energy Vice President of Business Planning and Development Irene Dimitry said the goal of 30 percent by 2025 is feasible for the utility to meet.
“We support it. We’ve been building renewable energy and supporting energy efficiency programs for quite a while now and we believe that both will be an important part of our portfolio to serve our customers going forward,” Dimitry said.
One other noteworthy amendment on the environmental front came from Minority Vice Chair Bill LaVoy, and changed the definition of renewable energy to exclude the burning of items such as tires and petroleum coke.
HB 4297, which included the renewable piece, was reported 21-3-1. Opposing it were Republican Rep. Holly Hughes and Democratic Reps. Scott Dianda and Derek Miller.
In HB 4298, much of the testimony and attention since the bill’s introduction in April centered around the issue of electric choice. Right now customers representing 10 percent of a utility’s load can elect to purchase their electricity from alternative electric suppliers — often at cheaper rates — instead of their incumbent utility.
Valerie Brader, director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, said the bill represented a “very large compromise,” and the main changes revolve around energy choice.
Initially the governor’s office and Nesbitt’s legislation were pretty far apart on this issue. Nesbitt’s bill eliminated choice completely while Gov. Rick Snyder called for keeping it. The Governor wanted to make it a “fair choice” by requiring alternative energy suppliers to prove they could serve customers five years into the future.
Brader said that after getting a lot of feedback on that not being feasible for alternative electric suppliers, they shortened the review period to three years and put an annual review into the final legislation.
“We’re going to actually match what people can serve in different years and relicense regularly,” Brader said.
Nesbitt said for him, continuing to allow 10 percent choice had been the biggest compromise to get this package out of committee.
“I feel I’ve provided a good compromise between those that want to further go to retail open access and those that want it eliminated,” Nesbitt said.
HB 4298, the piece that included energy choice, was voted out 18-7 with opposition from Republican Reps. Gary Glenn, Andrea Lafontaine, Holly Hughes, Tom Barrett, Pete Lucido, plus Democratic Reps. Scott Dianda and Derek Miller.
Glenn, of Midland, offered up multiple amendments that would have expanded choice. He said he would have liked more time for testimony on the latest version of the bill, because while Brader and Nesbitt say it preserves choice he’s heard from some groups it may make regulations too burdensome for alternative electric suppliers to continue operating.
He was also frustrated by the process. He asked for more testimony and a clean bill with all the changes instead.
“I don’t know what the rush is tonight when we don’t have something as simple as the bills we’re going to vote on in front of us,” Glenn said.
The House plan, out of committee, is now officially the farthest along in the process. In the Senate, the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, headed by Sen. Mike Nofs, is working on its own version of an energy overhaul with some differences.
Nesbitt said it was unlikely the plan would come up before the House’s scheduled hunting break, which likely places it before the House in December.