Consumers to adjust recent bills

TRAVERSE CITY — Consumers Energy Co. will adjust its natural gas and electric bills based on recent orders from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The utility last week was directed by the MPSC to refund more than $10.7 million, including interest, to natural gas customers after the commission approved a lower rate increase than was earlier implemented by the utility. Residential customers should see a refund of approximately $4.73 in their January billing, based on gas use of 18,000 cubic feet (mcf) per month.

The state also approved a revised surcharge for Consumers' electrical customers for decommissioning costs of the Big Rock Nuclear Power Plant near Charlevoix. The change will result in a 1.45 percent increase for typical residential customers on their January bills, state officials said.

Business on rise for state retailers

TRAVERSE CITY — Business for Michigan retailers picked up in November, according to a monthly sales index generated by the Michigan Retailers Association.

The survey showed that 54 percent of retailers reported increased sales in November compared to 2009, the best monthly year-to-year sales gains since 1999. Twenty-six percent of retailers surveyed reported sales declines and 20 percent saw no change.

"Consumers appear to be feeling more confident about the future and making purchases they had put off in recent years," said James Hallan, president and CEO of the state retail group.

For December through February, 40 percent of retailers expect sales to increase while 17 percent expect lower sales and 43 percent expect no change.

Charlevoix hosting business expo

CHARLEVOIX — An inaugural Business Expo will be hosted by the Charlevoix Chamber of Commerce on March 24.

The event will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Castle Farms in Charlevoix. Registration will open on Jan. 3 with an early registration rate for exhibitors of $225, increasing to $250 after Jan. 31. The expo will be preceded by a Business-to-Business After Hours Networking event on March 23 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Registration forms are available by contacting the Charlevoix chamber office at (231) 547-2101 or

Low-interest loans available to cities

TRAVERSE CITY — Low-interest loans from $100,000 up to $2.5 million are available for Michigan cities and villages to initiate new renewable and energy efficiency projects.

The loans are available for a 3 percent fixed rate up to six years and can be utilized to install energy efficient lighting, mechanical systems, water heating systems, advanced control and metering systems and boiler/furnace replacement. Renewable energy systems covered by the program include solar photovoltaic equipment, wind turbines, solar heat and hot water systems, ground-source heat pumps and biomass thermal products.

The program is operated through the state Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, and applications will be accepted until Sept. 30, 2011. DLEG's David Binkey can provide additional information on the program at (517) 373-7673.

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