A bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced a bill this month calling for the expanded use of microgrids, which help utilities and private customers rely on localized power generation during outages.
House Bill 4477— sponsored by state Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland — aims to build grid resilience by allowing customers who generate their own power to disconnect from the grid during outages.
“During power outages and blackouts, customers that generate renewable energy aren’t readily able to disconnect from the grid and use the energy they produce,” Johnson said in a statement. “My legislation would promote resiliency by allowing energy customers to establish their own ‘microgrids’ to keep the lights on when the main grid fails.”
The bill establishes protocols for disconnecting from the main electric grid and would enable the use of microgrids for critical facilities like hospitals, police stations, shelters and water treatment plants. The bill also calls for studying how microgrids could be more broadly available for residential customers.
“This legislation is a step toward greater energy independence, adaptability and resiliency for Michigan energy users,” Johnson said.
The bill was referred to the House Energy Policy Committee.
The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum announced its early support for the bill.
“As a state, we should strive to find innovative ways to promote energy independence, reliability and resiliency, and this legislation is a step in that direction,” MCEF Executive Director Ed Rivet said in a statement. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will enable distributed energy producers to keep the power flowing during times of outages, utilizing their energy systems to their full potential. This is crucial for powering essential services and maximizing the value of renewable energy systems.”
Consumers Energy has begun exploring microgrid concept projects in Grand Rapids and Jackson. Circuit West in Grand Rapids includes a mix of solar panels and energy storage in a 10-block area of the city’s West Side. While it would not “island” the area from the grid and allow it to stand alone while the grid is down, the concept promotes decentralized power generation.
“We look forward to discussing the merits of the bill with all stakeholders,” said Consumers spokesperson Katelyn Carey. “Our concern regarding House Bill 4477 is that all customers should pay their fair share to ensure reliability and affordability of the electric grid.”