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Gov. Whitmer Signs Solar Energy Legislation At Michigan EIBC Gala in East Lansing

image credit: Michigan Gov Whitmer Signing Legislation on a Solar Panel
Jason Price's picture
Business Development Executive - East Coast Energy and Utilities Group West Monroe Partners

Current function is the East Coast Business Development Executive for West Monroe Partners. Recent NYSERDA scholar and NYU Clean Energy and Technology Diploma recipient, completed a thesis...

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  • Nov 19, 2019 4:57 pm GMT

Major legislation gives important tax protections to home and land owners across the state of Michigan

Top minds in the energy industry convened for the 7th annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala in East Lansing on November 14, 2019. Organized by the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (MEIBC), the gala was held at the beautiful Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of Michigan State University. Keynote speaker Governor Gretchen Whitmer praised the community for its long struggle to pioneer forward the state’s energy vision as she signed into law, on stage, some very important legislation to support solar investment.

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Laura Sherman, MEIBC president, and her team prepared an engaging event and drew over 250 attendees representing the utilities, energy developers, efficiency experts, solar and storage providers, and legal and finance consultants. A number of award categories were covered including:

  • Project of the Year - East Lansing Community Solar Park
  • Emerging Business of the Year- PACENERGIES
  • Business of the Year - Walker-Miller Energy Services
  • Public Official of the Year - Liesl Eichler Clark, Director of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
  • Energy Innovators Hall of Fame Inductees - Britta Gross of Rocky Mountain Institute and Jim MacIness, Chairman and CEO of Crystal Mountain

With a couple of solar panels displayed on stage, Gov Whitmer turned her keynote address (full transcript below) into an opportunity to sign into law key legislation using a solar panel as a backstop to write her signature. The room filled with laughter and celebration with passage protecting homeowners and landowners from rising property values due to renewable energy investments. 

“Michigan EIBC was honored that Gov. Whitmer chose to sign this legislation into law at our
annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala,” Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman said in a statement. “We’ve been working with the bill sponsors on this common sense, bipartisan legislation for several years. These new laws will fix the confusing patchwork of taxation across the state when it comes to rooftop solar so more Michigan families and businesses can take advantage of the cost-saving potential of generating their own renewable energy.”

The legislation clarifies that solar panels are not part of a property for the purposes of property tax assessment until the property is sold. The practice of installing, repairing, or replacing alternative energy systems up to 150 kW is considered normal maintenance as a result of the legislation. The new laws would ensure that solar panels are treated in the same manner as a new energy-efficient furnace or hot water heater, only increasing the property value of a home when the home is sold.

Full transcript of Gov Whitmer’s speech to MEIBC:

For people in this room you are helping us make great strides in clean energy. Because of the work that you do the cost of clean energy has been slashed significantly and you are on the front line. So I want you to know how much we appreciate the work that you do.

We have a unique opportunity to harness our innovative workforce, protect the environment, and make Michigan a nationwide leader in clean energy and hit the ground running with the phenomenal people in this room and in the administration, and one of the first actions I took when taking office is to enter Michigan into the US Climate Alliance. Since the president withdrew us from the Paris Climate agreement it is more important ever that every governor across the country take the leader action that we need and band together to reduce states’ carbon emissions.

As I sign the executive order to create the Office of Climate Energy within EGLE this work will help us reduce GHG emissions and protect Michigan from the harmful acts of climate change. My administration has also taken a number of steps to embrace clean, renewable energy solutions. In June we announced the allowance of commercial solar panels to be installed on Michigan farmland because preparing for and investing in renewable energy we are going to protect our environment and diversify revenue sources for Michigan farmers. Economic development and job creation are key for this administration.

We can’t control everything as it comes to agriculture production in the state of Michigan. It has been a tough year and I think it just bolsters the rationale as we move forward and embrace important policy initiative. We need to lead by example in state government if we are going to build a more sustainable, stronger Michigan which is why I also directed our state departments to reduce their energy usage wherever possible. The departments like DTMV, DNR, The Dept of Corrections are all taking steps to reduce their usage and we are seeing the results. By moving our own government’s environmental footprint we lower energy cost and we also prove that sustainable practices can and will work across the state from rural locations to downtown Detroit and from the state that put the whole world on wheels we have seen some real innovative strides to take mobility to reduce carbon emissions. We’ve seen new companies like Waymo invest in Michigan because they know that Michigan is a great place to build, test, and deploy the cars of the future.

We still have work to do to make sure that more companies build electric vehicles in Michigan and when they do they better be able to drive on the damn roads, right?! (audience claps). This is why I am excited to work with our employers in the state of Michigan to advance forward electric vehicles and advanced mobility. That we solidify our pole position as a leader in this space not just the old traditional thought of what mobility means but the future looks like. So today I am signing a package of bills that reinstate the property tax exemption for renewable energy systems that was previously in effect from 2002 to 2012. These bills are sponsored by a number of state legislatures who are invited up on stage for the signing. These are: Reps Rabhi, Whitson, Barett, Lasinski, Kahle, Meade, Bebarski, Hatton, Stump, Paquette, Filler.

These bills exemplify and simplify the current taxation system on onsite energy systems. It will allow citizens to embrace renewable energy and ensure that renewable systems are exempt from personal property tax as long as they off set a portion of energy use on the property and produce less than 150KW. It is positive step in advancing clean energy while increasing jobs and protecting the pocketbooks of Michiganders. That is the kind of win-win-win we want to see in Michigan. We take important steps these past 11 months we got to continue to work together to fight back against climate change and ensure that health and safety of future generations are protected right here in the state of Michigan. I know that everyone in this room embraces this goal. I ask to you that we cannot rest on our laurels and celebrate our victories. I ask that you educate your kids and neighbors, co-workers and legislators, and corporate leaders as we see more and more people turning to clean energy and put our efforts into promoting clean energy.  

Thank you very much.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 19, 2019

The legislation clarifies that solar panels are not part of a property for the purposes of property tax assessment until the property is sold. The practice of installing, repairing, or replacing alternative energy systems up to 150 kW is considered normal maintenance as a result of the legislation. The new laws would ensure that solar panels are treated in the same manner as a new energy-efficient furnace or hot water heater, only increasing the property value of a home when the home is sold.

This is a really creative and elegant way to help bolster home power generation-- glad to see it from Governor Whitmer and hope other states follow suit!

Jason Price's picture
Jason Price on Nov 20, 2019

Such leadership is needed and seemed to be embraced by all those in the room with a standing ovation after signature. The legislation was well received. I can't believe this is a first for the country and must exist in other states, particularly farm states. I wonder if anyone can comment on other states with similar legislation. 

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