By JESSICA HULETT
Capital News Service
LANSING — Consumers Energy customers have the option to buy 10, 50 or 100 percent of their energy from certified green-power generators.
Green power is energy that comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro.
The company announced the Michigan Public Service Commission’s approval of its three-year Green Power Pilot Program last October and now has 500 to 600 customers signed up for the service, which comes from Bay Windpower’s two wind turbines in Mackinaw City.
“We believed there were customers that would be interested in purchasing this,” said Charles MacInnis, director of news and information for Consumers.
The program’s capacity is about 18,000 homes and is available to customers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Customers must keep the program for at least one year so that the company can measure the revenue stream.
Those who sign up for the program will pay an additional 0.32, 1.6 or 3.2 cents respective to the amounts of renewable energy they use, so a customer who uses 600 kilowatts per month will pay $19.20 (100 percent renewable), $9.60 (50 percent) or $1.92 (10 percent) extra per month.
But Consumers doesn’t see any profit from the additional charge. Most of the money customers pay goes to the generators that deliver the energy to Consumers and the rest goes to administer the program.
“It costs more because of the start-up cost,” MacInnis said. “It requires a large capital investment and it depends on the wind. We make no money from it; it’s a way to explore the green power.
“So for us, there is no advantage or disadvantage; we are simply a marketplace.”
It is not possible to predict if the cost will decrease because customers cannot rely only on windpower, he said.
“The fundamental problem is that you only get energy when the wind blows,” MacInnis said. “And customers need energy whether the wind blows or not.”
Consumers Energy provides service to at least a portion of all 68 counties in the Lower Peninsula.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By JESSICA HULETT