Bills aim to encourage solar installations


The Michigan Senate recently passed a pair of bills to help spur solar installations among private residents.

House Bills 5143 and 5680, introduced by State Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, will make investments in residential and small-scale solar energy equitable under the tax code, treating the addition of solar panels on residential and small business property the same as installing a backup generator or high-efficiency furnace.

“I have an interest in making sure residents would not be penalized if they made that investment,” Barrett said. “In Michigan right now, if you’ve got a boiler in the basement and you upgrade it to a natural gas furnace, you don’t get penalized for it. Solar should operate similarly.”

Barrett started work on HB 5143 and 5680 over a year ago, believing solar installations are a matter of both individual and private property rights.

“There are people who have invested in the interest of saving money and out of the interest of environmentalism,” Barrett said. “Regardless of your reasons, your property taxes should not go up as a result.”

Under the new legislation, solar installations would not be taxed under Michigan’s personal property tax but would be added to the residential property’s market value at the time of sale.

The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, a nonprofit organization that advocates for market-based renewable energy solution, applauded the passage of HB 5143 and 5680

“I spent several thousand dollars putting in energy-efficient windows,” said MICEF Executive Director Ed Rivet. “They didn’t come in and reassess the value of my home, but if you put in solar panels, the assessors come in and add it to your property taxes.”

Rivet said the MICEF has lobbied in favor of Barrett’s bills during much of the legislative process. As a conservative organization, MICEF has touted the benefits of renewable energy as a vehicle for economic growth, job creation, conservation, energy reliability, and national and grid security.

“We’re less the type of organization that would say government should do it all,” Rivet said. “Those things do exist to support new energy forms. Ultimately, we would like to see as little regulation and as much competition as possible.”

Rivet said MICEF is optimistic of such a future in alternative energy, pointing to the plummeting price of solar energy over the past eight years and the commitment of major utilities, like Jackson-based Consumers Energy, to large-scale solar installations.

Barrett added an increase of residential solar use can help reduce strain on the power grid during peak time, which is usually defined as mid-to-late summer, where peak energy usage to cool homes can raise energy demand.

Both bills were passed by the house unanimously and now await a signature by Gov. Rick Snyder.

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