Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

August 18, 2013

Green energy fees disappearing from utility bills

LANSING (AP) — Four years after raising customers’ bills to meet mandates to sell cleaner power, Michigan’s biggest utilities are eliminating the fees or slashing them significantly.

Residential customers of DTE Electric may see their $3 monthly surcharge fall to 43 cents under a plan pending with state regulators. Consumers Energy’s 52-cent monthly fee for residential customers — which previously fell from $2.50 — could go away entirely next year.

The lower surcharges for green energy are cheering proponents who say they are another reason Michigan should make utilities sell more electricity generated from wind or other renewable sources.

“The major takeaway is that renewables are getting demonstrably cheaper and costing ratepayers less and less,” said Ryan Werder, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “You have so much more of the state able to support wind power because of new technology and wind turbines, which opens up more opportunity and space for more efficient wind power.”

State law requires utilities to generate 10 percent of their power from sources other than fossil fuels by the end of 2015. To comply, they can charge up to $3 a month to residents, nearly $17 to smaller business and roughly $188 to industrial businesses.

Business surcharges also would drop significantly under proposals from DTE and Consumers Energy, which control 90 percent of the state’s electricity market.

After voters rejected a ballot proposal last year to boost the minimum to 25 percent by 2025, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a fact-finding team that conducted seven meetings around the state.

The governor has said he favors making utilities produce a greater share of their electricity from renewable sources but has not decided how big the increase should be. He is expected to make a recommendation late this year, and the fact that the surcharges are falling may make going above the 10 percent mandate more palatable in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

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