Published in Energy

Advanced energy group releases policies to help recover from job losses

BY Friday, May 08, 2020 02:00pm

A trade group for advanced energy companies has released a series of policy recommendations for state officials to resolve short-term job losses and allow the industry to be a “pillar of the economic recovery to come.”

The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council’s recommendations would affect industries hit with closures during the coronavirus pandemic, including energy efficiency, wind and solar, energy storage and electric vehicles. 

MEIBC President Laura Sherman COURTESY PHOTO

Over the past two months, the advanced energy sector has faced halted or cancelled projects as well as supply chain disruptions. Those industries are beginning to ramp back up under an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that reopened construction this week.

A report last month showed Michigan lost more than 5,400 of its 125,000 advanced energy jobs during the COVID-19 shutdown. State policy actions “will be crucial” to limit the sector’s job losses and help it grow in the future, according to the memo.

“It was a hugely growing industry — one of the best job creators in the state — and I think we’re hopeful that folks are able to get back to that,” said MEIBC President Laura Sherman. “As for all other small businesses and industries, it’s definitely a very challenging time.”

The group outlines a series of administrative, legislative and regulatory policy actions.

Short-term administrative action includes statewide workplace safety guidance, ensuring supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), allowing virtual inspections and work in unoccupied buildings. In the longer term, MEIBC recommends more energy efficiency projects in state buildings, repurposing Volkswagen settlement funds for more electric vehicle adoption, and making state land available for renewable energy development.

The group calls on the state Legislature to convene virtual meetings on clean energy issues and to pass a series of pending bills involving distributed generation projects that encourage more clean energy installations by utility customers. The MEIBC also wants the legislature to expand Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing opportunities and require utility programs that allow utility customers to pay for clean energy projects through bill savings.

The group calls for similar policy action through the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Clean energy advocates say the sector can play a key role in U.S. economic recovery, and should be a focus for tax incentives or stimulus funds in the months ahead. 

The U.S. Department of the Treasury told U.S. Senate lawmakers this week that it’s planning to extend rules that allow wind and solar developers to qualify for production and investment tax credits if projects have been delayed. The credits are scheduled to be phased out in the coming years. 

“Projects that have been waylaid by the economic disruptions of this pandemic can now proceed with more certainty,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. “That means more certainty for American businesses and families at a time when stability is in short supply.”

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