Michigan House Bill 4477 – Ignorance or Malicious?
- May 7, 2019
- 877 views
A new bill was introduced into the Michigan House on Microgrids. In the press release from Michigan House Representative Steven Johnson is the odd statement of: “House Bill 4477 would establish protocols for microgrids so renewable energy users could safely disconnect from the main electric grid during outages and continue using the renewable energy they generate.”
There are a range of issues in the bill including the destruction of one of the key tenants of Utility franchise laws. But the one that really gets funny is the one to allow residential renewables to operate in an outage. That is the only issue I will address here.
House Bill 4477 requires that people with renewables be allowed to use them during outages!
Today Michigan uses the National Electrical Code (NEC) which allows that any local generation be used during outages, with proper safety equipment. Tens of thousands of Michigan households have generators, transfer trip switches, and the other safety equipment required to allow them to run during outages.
Nothing is different about renewables, any renewable system can currently be installed or modified to run during an outage. All it takes is an installed to put in transfer trip, use an off-grid inverter, and for the safety of the appliances and people in the household either pick an inverter with good voltage regulation or put in a voltage regulator. Because in an outage the cloud cover in Michigan can be highly variable, some storage to ride through cloud cover and potentially provide power into the evening might be wise. Oh course, the transfer trip system, and the voltage regulator add cost to the system.
People who run on pure solar during outages can expect shorter life spans on all their electrical equipment do to variations in solar output during the storm and the weather immediately following the storm. The cost of at least a bit of storage would be paid off with the longer life of their appliances, computers, and entertainment equipment.
So, I am confused, do the sponsors of this bill not realize that this is currently law and regulation in Michigan or are they trying to get around the NEC, as some of the solar installers in Michigan have done time and again. Is this an end run to avoid cost of safety equipment?
Do they not realize that if the state starts not following the NEC that home insurance rates will rise, almost immediately by between 7 and 15 percent? Costing taxpayers far, far more in the state than following the NEC and putting in the safety equipment?
The requirements are clear in the NEC. Rep. Steven Johnson and his co-authors are either ignorant of the current rules or are they trying to go around the NEC and the safety of the public and the people who maintain the grid?
I got a non-answer from Rep. Johnson office when I asked. Having been provided with an earlier draft of this article they have not responded to the article.
We as an engineering community have the responsibility to stand up for safety and to help policy makers understand the underlying technical issues. In this case I hope it is only about ignorance, and not about maliciousness. Speak out to your policy makers and offer technical advice, lets avoid this kind of bill from ever being written.