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Diverse coalition encourages passage of bipartisan community solar legislation

Groups say legislation would help lower energy costs while helping state transition to clean energy

Community Solar supporters

LANSING, Mich. — A diverse coalition of organizations is encouraging lawmakers to pass  bipartisan-sponsored legislation that will enable and scale community solar across Michigan.  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded a $156 million federal grant to Michigan for programs aimed at expanding solar access in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is responsible for utilizing the funding to finalize and implement programs that maximize benefits for low-income households and communities.  

“We have a tremendous opportunity for EGLE to help ensure residents in underserved areas gain access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar power,” said Sergio Cira-Reyes, Climate Justice Catalyst, at the Urban Core Collective. “To do that we need a state policy framework that encourages the creation of third-party community solar projects, which ultimately will help provide cleaner air to breathe and water to drink for all Michigan residents. This important legislation would help improve public health, save lives and create equitable access to clean energy.”

Currently, Michigan does not allow independently owned community solar programs that local residents can subscribe to. Community solar projects in Senate Bills 152 and 153 would expand solar energy access to individuals who are limited due to income, rent a home that does not permit rooftop installation or who face other obstacles, such as the placement of their home or trees shading their home. 

Community solar programs are currently not allowed in the state despite the work of community organizations preparing to lead community solar development for more than a decade. They need access to the utility billing system so community members can receive credits on their bills from their community solar subscriptions. Additionally, these solar energy projects need to be connected to a utility company’s grid. 

Studies of community solar development show that local ownership expands financial benefits to households and local economies while generating more jobs, more engagement and more stability for the solar industry. 

“It is time for the Michigan Legislature to move community solar legislation forward so that we can expand access to clean solar energy to more Michiganders,” said Carlo Cavallaro, Midwest regional director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “Without Senate Bills 152 and 153, Michigan will miss out on the ability to tap into the hundreds of millions of dollars from third-party community solar developers’ investments into Michigan’s utility grid at no cost or risk to Michigan ratepayers. We have a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on EPA grant funding to help more families save money and take control of where their energy comes from. We can create a cleaner, brighter and more sustainable future for all of Michigan residents with community solar.”

“Our Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should enable community solar in our state’s transition to 100% clean energy,” said Nick Occhipinti, government affairs director at The Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Community solar allows those who can’t install rooftop solar to take part in Michigan’s clean energy future, while lowering their monthly energy bills and reducing pollution in our air and water. This bipartisan legislation will pave the way for community-led solar projects and we urge lawmakers to unleash this opportunity giving Michiganders more access to affordable solar energy.” 

“Community organizations in Michigan have been trying to create community solar programs for more than a decade — they’ve developed models, negotiated settlements, and advocated to regulators to no avail,” said Dr. Denise Keele, Executive Director at Michigan Climate Action Network. "Twenty-two other states already enable community solar, and advancing this bi-partisan legislation would finally allow all Michiganders to embrace and benefit from the fastest growing segment of the U.S. solar market.``  

“Community solar legislation is necessary for Michigan to gain the greatest number of benefits of Solar For All,” said John Delurey, senior midwest director at Vote Solar. “Michigan received $156 million through the Solar For All program to benefit low- or moderate-income households. EGLE’s proposal projects that more than 90% of the solar deployed will be community solar. That’s more than $100 million of public investment that could be generating benefits for both local and community ownership. Without taking legislative action now, these projects will be dominated by utility interests, and we’ll miss that opportunity.”   

“It is time to pass community solar legislation that includes third-party community solar programs to help achieve 100% clean energy by 2040 under Michigan’s clean energy law,” said Andrea Pierce, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC) policy manager. "We have an important opportunity to use EPA grant funding to assist low-income, black, Indigenous, people of color and families to save money, take control of where their energy comes from and hold big utilities accountable. Doctors say transitioning to clean energy will reduce rates of asthma, heart disease, lung disease and even cancer — especially for children and seniors. Now is the time to create a cleaner and more sustainable future that benefits ALL Michiganders.”

“With the Legislature’s support, community organizations stand ready to make community solar projects with tangible community benefits a reality for everyone in Michigan — regardless of your race, income or if you own a home,” said Alexis Blizman, Ecology Center legislative and policy director. “It’s time to create a transformative policy and start building projects that offer real community benefits.

“As Michigan continues to emerge as a national climate leader, it’s important to ensure that all Michiganders feel the economic and health benefits of the state’s growing clean energy economy. By passing community solar, Michigan can unlock the door for low-income communities and renters to access the cost-saving benefits of solar energy,” said Courtney Bourgoin, Evergreen Action Midwest senior policy and advocacy manager. “Enacting community solar will lower energy prices, give Michiganders alternative choices beyond monopoly electric utilities, and help ensure that Michigan’s massive $154 million Solar for All award works effectively and equitably across the state. Let’s get it done.”

“Community solar legislation is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of all Michigan residents, especially those who have suffered the greatest health impacts from fossil fuel pollution,” said Dr. Elizabeth (Lisa) Del Buono MD, founder and president of Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action. Such legislation would not only expedite the build out of healthy, clean solar energy in a more democratic and equitable fashion, but it would also protect health by improving the resilience of the grid. As extreme weather becomes more common in Michigan, dependable and affordable electricity can literally be the difference between life and death for those dependent on electricity to provide oxygen to breathe and for those whose health cannot withstand the increasingly common extreme heat, humidity, and poor air quality.  Let’s seize this opportunity to improve the health of ALL Michigan residents today!”


Contact: Jacqueline WayneGuite, Byrum & Fisk Advocacy Communications, [email protected] 

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