Consumers Energy seeks Michigan PSC approval of distributed solar pilot program

Consumers Energy applied May 8 at the Michigan Public Service Commission for approval of a Solar Distributed Generation Pilot Program (Solar DG Pilot), since it believes that there exists customer interest in solar distributed generation among some residential and small commercial and industrial electric customers.

As part of the Solar DG Pilot, Consumers Energy told the commission that it will serve as an advisor, marketer, and packager of solar distributed generation for interested customers. Consumers Energy will enter into agreements with one or more vendors, who in turn will contract with the customers to provide standardized solar equipment for lease or sale to interested customers, and to provide installation and service on the solar equipment.

Consumers Energy would act as the point-of-contact and interface with interested customers and act as the marketer and packager of the solar distributed generation equipment and associated services. Consumers Energy will not own the solar equipment associated with the Solar DG Pilot; rather, it will serve as the facilitator between the interested customers and the solar vendor(s) who participate in the program. Customer participation in the Solar DG Pilot will be entirely voluntary. In addition, customers would remain free to pursue solar distributed generation through alternatives other than the Solar DG Pilot.

Consumers Energy will select te vendor(s) to participate in the Solar DG Pilot via a due diligence process that considers each vendor’s ability to deliver desired products and services, experience and past performance in providing desired products and services, including, but not limited to, compliance with applicable laws and regulations, creditworthiness, and other factors Consumers Energy considers critical to the success of the Solar DG Pilot. Because the scope of the Solar DG Pilot is limited, sourcing via a formal bid process is not practical, the utility noted. This process allows the company to implement the Solar DG Pilot in a reasonable amount of time.

“Consumers Energy believes a lack of available financing with the appropriate tenor (e.g., 10 to 20 year duration) packaged into an affordable monthly payment may have restricted the development of a robust market for solar distributed generation in the State of Michigan to date,” this CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS) wrote. “As part of the Solar DG Pilot, an affiliate of the Company, EnerBank USA (‘EnerBank’), or other qualified non-affiliated third-party financing entity made available through the Solar Vendor(s) (collectively, including EnerBank, the ‘Financing Entities’), may provide competitive financing offerings for qualified customers who desire to finance their purchases of solar distributed generation equipment. EnerBank is a Utah state-chartered, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insured industrial bank which provides unsecured consumer installment loans for the financing of home improvements, including solar distributed generation equipment. EnerBank has significant experience in providing financing for residential customers’ solar projects in other states. EnerBank has a demonstrated record of providing accessible financing for customers’ solar projects, at terms which are fair for customers and which have made investments in small solar projects possible.

“As part of the Solar DG Pilot, Consumers Energy will provide interested customers with information regarding financing options offered by Financing Entities to the extent that those financing options are made available through the Solar Vendor(s). Customers would not be obligated to finance their purchases of solar equipment under the Solar DG Pilot. Customers who choose to finance their solar equipment purchases will determine the entity from whom they will obtain financing.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.