Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed former state representative and clean energy advocate Dan Scripps to the Michigan Public Service Commission on Feb. 8, filling a key vacancy as the administration brings a heightened focus to renewable energy and climate change.
Michigan’s energy system is undergoing a significant transformation as utilities close coal plants and transition to more natural gas and renewables, leaving key policy decisions to the MPSC.
With a Republican-led Legislature, bold action on clean energy will most likely come from the administration. Meanwhile, the MPSC increasingly is focused on clean energy issues like solar power, grid modernization and utilities’ transition from coal.
In addition to overseeing the rates utilities charge customers, the MPSC also is grappling with the role of third-party developers and their opportunity to build renewable energy projects alongside rate-regulated utilities.
Both Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, for example, are seeing an unprecedented amount of applications from developers to build solar projects in their service territory.
Rod Williamson, executive director of the Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity (ABATE), said the group plans to meet with Scripps very soon.
“It’s our expectation that Dan is going to continue to follow the same principles of cost of service that’s required by legislation as he takes over,” Williamson said.
Williamson said ABATE is “concerned” about the recent string of coal plant closures and maintaining grid reliability and affordable costs.
However, the group supports a “diversified portfolio of generation” and “renewables certainly need to be a part of that portfolio.”
“We just have to be careful that we’re not moving too quickly in the direction of a certain type of renewable generation,” Williamson said. “We’re hopeful that (Scripps) will approach that with an open mind as well.”
Scripps, a Northport resident, is the Midwest policy program director for the Energy Foundation and a past president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council. He fills a vacancy on the MPSC after Whitmer appointed former commissioner Rachel Eubanks as state treasurer.
“I have full confidence that Dan Scripps will ensure we have a reliable and affordable energy supply to keep our economy moving and keep families safe,” Whitmer said in a statement. “We need to continuously find innovative ways to keep the lights on and the heat flowing, and Dan is the right guy for the job.”
Meanwhile, Whitmer has an opportunity to appoint a second member to the three-person commission when Commissioner Norm Saari’s term expires on July 2. Saari is a Republican appointee of former Gov. Rick Snyder. Observers have said it’s unlikely Whitmer will reappoint Saari.
The MPSC appointments are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.