Midwest adding surcharge with this month’s bills

Published 2:10 pm Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009 8:37 AM EDT

CASSOPOLIS – Over the next few months, Midwest Energy Cooperative will launch a series of energy efficiency programs under the state’s energy optimization mandate, which was created by passage of the “Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act” in the fall of 2008.

The programs are designed to reduce the energy use of participating co-op members – and reduce the need for additional power plants – by encouraging investment in energy efficiency measures.

To cover the cost of these state-mandated programs, all electric and natural gas customers in Michigan will be assessed a monthly energy optimization surcharge.

For Midwest Energy Cooperative, the surcharge begins with this month’s bills.

While the energy optimization moniker sounds daunting, Robert Hance, president/CEO, said Thursday it simply means using energy wisely – getting more value for every dollar you spend on energy.

“The mandate is designed to encourage energy users to incorporate products, information and services to better manage their energy usage,” he said. “While I’m glad to see this subject get more attention, I wish it wasn’t in the form of a fee-based mandate.

“Promoting better and more efficient use of energy is something electric cooperatives have done for a long time, and now we’re in the unfortunate position of having to charge our members for that service.”

Midwest Energy Cooperative will begin rolling out programs over the next several months, and into next year.

Early on, these will include energy efficiency assistance for qualified low-income co-op members and a program to encourage commercial and industrial members to install energy-efficient equipment.

Other programs under development include an online home energy audit, promotion of Energy Star(r) efficiency products, appliance recycling and programs for multi-family housing, residential heating and air conditioning and residential new construction.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) currently estimates that participating consumers can expect to save $2.92 each month, or enough to offset the EO charge on the bills of residential members.

Michigan’s law requires that EO programs cost no more than about 2.2 percent of the average monthly residential bill, although that will vary somewhat by usage.

The average surcharge for residential and seasonal co-op members across the state will be about $.00154 per kWh, or about $1.50 a month for the average user.

Midwest Energy Cooperative residential members will pay $.00130 per kWh, or about $1.30 a month for the average user.

General service and commercial and industrial members will be charged a flat monthly rate per meter.

All rates were approved by the PSC.

“It is impossible to predict the exact savings because many factors influence your kilowatt-hour (kWh) use, such as living habits, weather, the number of people in the household, condition of your appliances and electrical equipment and building size. A change in any of these factors can easily affect your consumption,” Hance said. “We will strive to keep costs as low as possible, while still meeting mandated goals.”

Members are urged to read the July/August issue of Michigan Country Lines magazine and visit the cooperative Web site at www.TeamMidwest.com to learn more about the new mandate and to keep abreast of the availability of programs.

Midwest Energy Cooperative is a member-owned electric utility providing electric distribution and an assortment of energy-related programs and services to more than 35,000 customers in 11 counties in southern Michigan and northern Indiana and Ohio.