In Aftermath of Storms, Michigan State Rep. Johnson Continues Call to Allow Microgrid Use by Critical Facilities

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With hundreds of thousands of households across Michigan left without power in the wake of severe storms, State Rep. Steven Johnson (R-MI-72) said circumstances like these emphasize the need to allow microgrid infrastructure in Michigan.

Johnson, of Wayland, introduced key legislation in May that would allow for the use of microgrids for critical facilities, according to a press release. These critical facilities include fire departments, police, water treatment facilities, hospitals and schools. The bill would allow energy users with standalone energy systems to disconnect from the main electric grid during outages to continue powering their facilities.

Severe storms in July blew through the state. In southwest Michigan, nine of Detroit’s 34 fire stations lost power and critical facilities in West Michigan were left in the dark for days.

“With devastating storms growing more and more frequent, allowing microgrids to power critical facilities is a commonsense solution to ensuring the power stays on a critical at facilities like hospitals and fire and police stations when the main electric grid fails,” Johnson, of Wayland said. “In this case, we were simply lucky the damage wasn’t more extensive.”

House Bill 4477 was introduced with bipartisan backing and the support of a diverse group of organizations, including engineers, officials from the City of Grand Rapids, former military officials and energy experts, according to a press release issued in June by the Michigan House Republicans.

Current law dictates that these facilities are unable to generate electricity through their own independent energy systems during outages on the main grid, Johnson’s press release said. His legislation would increase energy resiliency for essential facilities like schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and other services essential for the health, safety and general welfare of children, patients and residents. It also would implement a study on the use of microgrids for residential customers.

Microgrids are relatively uncommon in the Midwest, reports Energy News. Consumers Energy has started pilot concepts in Jackson and Grand Rapids.

The bill would also prevent utilities from charging building owners standby rates when it’s not in use, Energy News said. Regulations do not allow facilities using backup generators to provide powers to others along the right of way.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.
Background Photo “Michigan House Floor” by Steve and Christine. CC BY 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

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