Note: The Experimental Advanced Renewable Energy Program is closed to new participants. New distributed generation customers of Consumers Energy can refer to Michigan's net metering policy and visit the Consumers Energy net metering webpage for an alternative option.
The Experimental Advanced Renewable Energy Program (EARP) offers Consumers Energy residential and non-residential customers a buy-back tariff program for electricity produced by solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and anaeorobic digestion. The pilot version of the program began in 2009 and closed in December 2010, but an expanded version of the program has extended into 2015.
Owners of residential systems from 1-20 kilowatt (kW) and non-residential systems from 1-150 kW are eligible to participate in the program. Residential customers must receive electric service on tariff rate RS or RT in order to be eligible for the program. Non-residential customers on tariff rates RS, RT, GS, GSD, GP, and GPD are eligible for the program.
The expanded program is capped at 3,000 kW of capacity, with 1,500 kW for residential systems and 1,500 kW for non-residential systems. If the total capacity of eligible applications exceeds the capacity offered in any phase, applicants will be chosen based on a random selection process for each phase. Consumers Energy expects to allocate approximately 275 kW for residential customers each month and 750 kW for non-residential customers every other month.
Beginning January 1, 2015, the frequency of Non-Residential allocations will be increased to bi-monthly. The capacity solicited in each allocation will be 750 kW. Allocations will continue to be offered until the earlier of (i) December 31, 2015 or (ii) capacity of the program is fully subscribed. The amount of capacity solicited in the final allocation will be determined by the remaining capacity in the program.
It is important to note that this is not a net metering program and program participants are not eligible for net metering. Under the program, Consumers Energy will purchase all of the electricity produced by the system through a fixed-rate contract of up to 15 years. Contracts will be 15 years in length, but may not have a termination date of later than August 31, 2029. Electricity production is metered separately from the customer's existing electricity source (i.e., the grid). Participants are assessed a monthly System Access Charge equivalent to the existing distribution account used to qualify for the program to cover metering costs.* Systems with battery back-up or any other type of energy storage capability are not eligible to participate in this program. In order to be eligible for the program, solar equipment must be manufactured in Michigan or constructed by a Michigan workforce (detailed requirements are available on the program web site).
Solar systems that receive the residential tariff rate may not be located on property that is used for commercial, governmental, or non-profit purposes. Consumers Energy will only credit the Electric Account Holder; a third party cannot receive credit for the production of an EARP system. However, long term leases of the generating equipment are permitted. Consumers Energy will credit the Electric Account Holder. The applicant must be a Consumers Energy customer on one of the qualifying electricity rates and must own the generating system. If the generation system is located on property that is not owned by the applicant, the applicant must have a lease or other instrument that permits them to construct, own, and operate the system throughout the term of the contract. Systems installed on newly constructed buildings are eligible for this program as long as the applicant will receive electric service from the utility at that site, or an adjacent site.
Participants who have been selected for this program will be notified and will have thirty days from notice of their acceptance to sign and return the Agreement for Service and submit an interconnection application and will have nine months to provide proof they have obtained sufficient financing for the project.
Furthermore, participants will have two years from their notice to construct their system and begin generating electricity to achieve their Commercial Operation Date (COD). Once a system has reached COD, the customer can begin receiving compensation for their generation
Participants will have two rate options from which to choose when applying to the program. The first option is a levelized rate that will pay $86.00/MWh for the full twenty year term of the Agreement. The second option is a rate payment schedule that will allow participants to specify the term of their Agreement to be between ten and twenty years. View the Program website for more information.
* The System Access Charge for the EARP is set at $6 per month for tariff rates RS and RT; $15 per month for tariff rate GS; $25 per month for tariff rates GSD and GP; and may not exceed $50 per month for other eligible customers (i.e., tariff rate GPD).