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Nofs kicks off summer hearings on Senate energy plan

July 20, 2015

Senate Energy and Technology Committee Chair Mike NOFS (R-Battle Creek) kicked off the first of what will likely be a full summer of hearings on the Senate’s energy plan.

SB 0437 and   SB 0438, sponsored by Nofs and Committee Vice Chair John PROOS (R-St. Joseph), calls for removing mandates on renewables and revamping the state’s integrated resource planning (IRP) process. 

That would entail requiring utilities to submit IRPs that set clean emissions goals for its power plants at various increments to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), as well as setting stricter standards on future utility investments.  

Proos’ bill would specifically do away with the elimination of the renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which was enacted in 2008 and called for a 10 percent renewable energy. It would also eventually phase out the state’s energy efficiency standard.  

The plan looks to keep the state’s current 10 percent electric choice cap with stricter parameters, while the House plan favors an eventual phase out.

Today’s hearing featured a lengthy debate involving Nofs, Proos and Sens. Ken HORN (R-Frankenmuth) and Mike SHIRKEY (R-Clarklake), both of whom have been vocal about their differing views on the electric choice debate. 

Horn has introduced legislation calling for those choosing alternative energy suppliers to notify utilities five years prior to making the switch back to the public system, and Shirkey has openly questioned the utilities’ assertions that an energy capacity crisis is facing Michigan. 

Nofs told senators the energy choice piece of the proposal is currently set up the way it is so those switching back to the regular market from alternative energy sources bear any additional costs instead of ratepayers. 

Shirkey said he agrees with Nofs’ goal of keeping burdens off of ratepayers in case of an energy shortfall, but he is “not sure the legislation does that.” 

The concept of allowing businesses to only switch off or on the regulated energy market one time “flies in the face of creating a true choice market,” Shirkey said. 

Horn’s argument was that the umbrella of service offered by energy companies requires utilities to be certain of their customer base and provide a significant enough bumper into the formula to keep alternative energy customers switching back into the market from bumping up prices. 

From a Democratic perspective, Sen. Hoon-Yung HOPGOOD (D-Taylor), the committee’s minority vice chair, said the legislation doesn’t have “everything we were hoping for,” particularly in terms of a strong focus on promoting renewable energy. 

Nofs brought out the legislation as the culmination of months of discussion and input from a 37-member workgroup that began meeting periodically last year.  

A slew of changes are already headed into the legislation. Substitute versions of the legislation correcting errors and technical issues will be formally rolled out at the next hearing, Nofs said. 

Tentatively, Nofs said he plans to host at least a hearing every two weeks depending on committee members’ schedules. 

Only senators and staff had the chance to testify and ask questions at today’s hearing, but Nofs assured attendees that he would hear everyone out before the process was over. 

The senator’s goal is to get energy legislation signed by the Governor before the end of the year at the latest.

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