May 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to the monthly newsletter of the Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association (MEECA). Read on for a summary of what's happening.

MEECA event highlights EE makeover of The Whitney

Jim Newman of Newman Consulting Group, LLC describes technical elements of The Whitney’s recent renovation.

 

Earlier this month MEECA hosted a reception at The Whitney, a National Historic Landmark on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. Nearly forty people gathered adjacent to the restaurant’s Ghostbar—known for one of the area’s best happy hour menus—to network with fellow energy efficiency professionals. They also learned about the 120-year-old building’s recent renovation featuring multiple energy-saving measures.

 

Among the attendees were several of the companies that performed the renovation, as well as MEECA member Newman Consulting Group, LLC which designed and coordinated the project. Jim Newman and others described technical features of the renovation that include more efficient HVAC systems, updated lighting, windows, kitchen equipment and building controls. The group also learned about how Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing was used to fund the $850,000 investment.

 

The building was initially the home of lumber baron David Whitney, Jr., once the wealthiest man in Detroit. A goal of the renovation was to retain the Romanesque revival mansion’s turn-of-the-century charm. This was done in part with the creative application of efficient LED lighting that replicates the warmth and historic authenticity of the original incandescent bulbs.   

 

The Whitney’s co-owner Pat Liebler joined the reception to talk about the project from the client’s perspective. He reported energy savings approaching 40 percent in addition to lower maintenance costs. Equally impressive has been the increased year-round comfort enjoyed by the restaurant’s patrons.

 

We wish to thank especially three of The Whitney project contractors—Dustmen Electric LLC, Midwest Illumination and Carter Mechanical—for their generous sponsorship of this professional networking event.

EE Industry News

 

Michigan’s utility ratepayers to receive over $50 Million following federal corporate tax reduction

 

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has approved settlement agreements with multiple utility companies to pass on to ratepayers their savings from the federal tax law rewrite, beginning in July. Filings were approved for Alpena Power Co., DTE Gas Co., Michigan Gas Utilities Corp., Northern States Power, SEMCO Energy Gas Co., and Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. (UMERC). Rulings will be announced later for Consumers Energy Co., DTE Electric Co., Indiana Michigan Power Co. (I&M), and Upper Peninsula Power Co. (UPPCo). MPSC Chairman Sally Talberg said, “Utilities are benefiting from the tax cuts and their customers should, too.”

 

The federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act reduced the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and made other changes to tax rules. To learn more about this development, see MPSC’s press release.

 

U.P. program to help businesses save energy

 

As reported in the Iron Mountain Daily News, a new grant to the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR) will help businesses identify opportunities to reduce costs with energy efficiency. WUPPDR, which received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will pay up to 75 percent of the cost of commercial energy audits and assessments to help local businesses identify opportunities to reduce energy expenses and target resources to pay for energy waste reduction investments. The program is a partnership between WUPPDR and MEECA member Michigan Energy Options, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing communities’ access to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

 

In addition to receiving a report with specific energy-efficiency recommendations and cost-saving projections, participating businesses will be connected with existing resources to help finance energy efficiency investments. Participating businesses can choose from two different program options: a Level I energy assessment or a Level II energy audit. The full article can be found here.

 

In related news, the 2018 U.P. Energy Summit was held last week at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. Representatives from utility companies, state agencies, and other stakeholders met to discuss the changing energy landscape in the region.

 

Going green is harder for Detroit’s low-income communities

 

A recent article in Grist Magazine reports on research about the energy burden on low-income residents. In particular, LEDs can be harder to find for people who live in higher poverty areas in Detroit. And when they are available, they can be more expensive than the same type of bulbs for sale in higher-income areas, according to a recent University of Michigan Study.

 

The researchers surveyed 130 stores in Wayne County, Michigan. In the highest-poverty areas, incandescents were $1.63 and LEDs were $7.87. In the wealthiest areas, the prices were $2.10 and $5.20. If you live in a high-poverty area, lead author Tony Reames explains, that kind of markup makes it hard to justify choosing LEDs. “You’re definitely going to go for the dollar light bulbs,” he says.

 

Big chain stores are able to offer the lowest LED prices and, in Wayne County, those large stores were largely concentrated in wealthy areas. Small stores and pharmacies, mostly located in poorer areas, had the highest prices.

 

Reames says, “We still have these other barriers that we need to understand to help low income and minority communities make the transition.” Click here to read the full Grist article.

 

Michigan Agency for Energy sees increased demand for electricity, natural gas

 

The Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) has released its annual Summer Energy Appraisal. The forecast includes up to 1.5 percent higher demand for electricity over last year, and a rise in natural gas demand of 8 percent. Key facts from MAE’s Summer Energy Appraisal:

  • The largest increase in electricity use is expected in the residential sector (2.7%), followed by industrial (1.5%), and commercial (0.6%).
  • MAE predicts normal to slightly higher temperatures throughout 2018, but should summer temperatures spike higher, electricity use would increase, mainly to meet the demands for increased air conditioning of homes and buildings.
  • The increase in natural gas use is driven mainly by Michigan’s growing demand in the power sector. Natural gas use in the power sector has increased by 9.7 percent annually between 2010 and 2017.
  • Lower natural gas inventories nationwide – 35 percent below storage levels of one year ago and 25 percent below the five-year average for the month of May – could lead to higher summer prices.

 

MAE’s official statement and the Summer Energy Appraisal document can be found at this web link.

 

MI agribusinesses enjoyed significant energy savings in 2017

 

The County Press recently reported on energy savings by Michigan’s agricultural sector last year. According to the Michigan Agri-Business Association (MABA) and Consumers Energy, Michigan farmers and agribusinesses saved more than $1.7 million in 2017 by taking advantage of multiple energy efficiency measures available from Consumers Energy for agricultural users. These included grain dryer heat recovery retrofits, spectrum shifting poultry LED lighting and cold storage facility efficiency measures.

 

“The agriculture sector uses energy in a unique way given the seasonal nature of our business, and we thank Consumers Energy for working in partnership with our industry to make energy efficiency rebates work, helping businesses reduce their energy use and save money,” said Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “Consumers Energy has been proactive when it comes to energy efficiency for agriculture, as demonstrated by their willingness to adjust their programs and expand energy efficiency programs more than four-fold in the past decade.”

 

Click here to read the full story at The County Press.

 

DTE Energy to sell “green bonds” to fund green energy investments 

 

DTE Energy is offering $525 million in “green bonds,” which are bonds to finance environmentally-friendly energy investments, like low-carbon, renewable, and energy efficient projects. The Detroit-based utility is the fifth energy company in the nation to sell green bonds. They will have a maturity of 30 years at an annual fixed coupon of 4.05 percent. For more about this development, read the company’s news release and this article by Daily Energy Insider.

 

Changing energy efficiency and fuel economy standards affect energy consumption

 

Federal legislation passed in the 1970s and 1980s and updated in subsequent decades established mandatory federal minimum energy efficiency standards for equipment and appliances in buildings and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks. Three scenarios in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2018 (AEO2018) examine the impacts of varying energy efficiency policies on end-use consumption, including what could happen under current laws and what might happen if energy efficiency policies were made more or less stringent. A summary of this analysis can be found on the EIA’s website. The full article Alternative Policies in Power Generation and Energy Demand Markets provides detailed discussions of the assumptions and results for the two end-use efficiency policy scenarios.

Public Policy Update

 

Public hearing scheduled for Code of Conduct

 

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has issued an order in docket number U-18361 to set the public hearing and comment period on the proposed Code of Conduct rules. This issue is important to MEECA members as it addresses value-added programs undertaken by unregulated affiliates of investor owned utility companies in Michigan.

 

MEECA will attend the public hearing (9:00 a.m., Friday, June 15, 2018 at the MPSC office located at 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing) and will submit written comments which are due by 5:00 p.m., Friday, June 29, 2018. MEECA members are invited to contact David Gard at david@meeca.info or 517-896-2960 for information about attending the public hearing and submitting separate written comments to MPSC.

 

Energy Waste Reduction Low Income Workgroup

 

At the most recent meeting of the EWR Low Income Low Income Workgroup, attendees heard presentations on current LI programs offered by DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, Indiana Michigan Power, SEMCO, and UPPCO. Discussion included refinement of the workgroup’s vision and mission statements, brainstorming of priority topics, and barriers and opportunities. Anyone is welcome to participate in this recently launched stakeholder collaborative. The next two meetings are scheduled for 9:00 a.m. to Noon, June 14, 2018 (will address multi-family housing) and 9:00 a.m. to Noon, July 26, 2018 (will address single family housing). A conference line will be available for those who cannot attend these meetings in Lansing.

Upcoming Events & Deadlines

EWR Low Income Workgroup Meeting

9:00 a.m. to Noon, Thursday, June 14, 2018

MPSC office located at 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing, Michigan

Contact MPSC staff member Brad Banks with questions at BanksB1@michigan.gov or 517-284-8118

Public hearing on Code of Conduct draft rules

9:00 a.m., Friday, June 15, 2018

MPSC office located at 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing, Michigan

Reaching for Zero summit promoting widespread adoption of net zero energy building design and construction

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Western Michigan University’s Fetzer Center

Upcoming Building Operator Certification (BOC) Level I Classes

Begins Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Troy, MI

Tuition discounts are available for veterans!

MEECA 2nd Annual Summer Golf Outing

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hawk Hollow Championship Golf Course in Bath, MI

EWR Low Income Workgroup Meeting

9:00am to Noon, July 26, 2018

MPSC office located at 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing, Michigan

Contact MPSC staff member Brad Banks with questions at BanksB1@michigan.gov or 517-284-8118

Michigan Saves Contractor Breakfast

8:00 a.m., Friday, August 10, 2018

Hennessy's Pub, 885 Jefferson St, Muskegon, MI

For questions, please contact Todd Parker, Michigan Saves customer service manager, at 517-484-6474 x3 or tparker@michigansaves.org. 

ASHRAE Commercial Code Training co-hosted by MEECA and Energy Sciences

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Behler-Young Headquarters in Grand Rapids, MI

(More details coming soon)