Battle over solar power heats up between utility companies, environmental advocates

Environmental advocacy group hopes to end caps

With the war in Ukraine and a focus on being “energy self-sufficient,” certainly more people are paying attention to alternative energy. For homeowners who might be considered early adopters of solar roof panels, the sun isn’t the only thing heating this up -- it’s the compensation. There’s an environmental advocacy group trying to educate the public to kill current laws, while utility companies hope to strengthen them.

With the war in Ukraine and a focus on being “energy self-sufficient,” certainly more people are paying attention to alternative energy.

For homeowners who might be considered early adopters of solar roof panels, the sun isn’t the only thing heating this up -- it’s the compensation.

There’s an environmental advocacy group trying to educate the public to kill current laws, while utility companies hope to strengthen them.


The Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan United is hosting a virtual town hall on solar energy in Michigan. They are planning on discussing how solar can benefit the environment and your energy bill. Click the link below for more information.


In Commerce Township, those interesting-looking shingles on the Prange house are solar panels. They were installed two years ago by a family doing everything they can to minimize their carbon footprint and help the environment.

They said the solar panels have saved them a lot of money. Their bills before the solar panels cost around $100, now they average about $40 a month.

What they don’t use to energize their home, they sell back to their utility company. They said there have been times when they’ve gone 20 days without needing energy from DTE Energy.

Environmentalists call it compensation for energy returned to the grid. Michigan has one of the most restrictive caps on distrusted generation hookups.

Utility companies call it subsidies, because of the rate currently being paid. In Michigan, state law limits the percentage of customers who can get compensated or subsidies depending on who you’re talking to for solar energy returned to their utility companies.

Environmental groups in Michigan, like the Michigan Environmental Council, are trying to educate consumers so they understand the accessibility of alternative energy. The groups are also pushing to close the cap so that anyone who can get solar will be paid for it when there’s extra power to be shared back into the energy pool.

DTE said they are pro-solar, but that someone has to pay for returned power from homeowners.

Read: Tech Time: DTE Energy invests in solar panel technology


About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.