Status quo on energy policy means added costs for consumers

MACKINAC ISLAND – Michigan consumers are paying more for their electric bills than they did in 2011, mainly because of higher fuel costs attributed to the importation of coal from other states, according to a summer energy appraisal compiled by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

DTE Energy consumers are the hardest hit, with their monthly bills rising from $67.81 to $76.97 – a 13.5 percent increase over last year.

The MPSC stated Consumers Energy customers are paying $65.61 a month in 2012, compared to $64.77 a month in 2011. That’s a 1.3 percent increase over last year.

Prices for both utilities were based on a consumer using 500 kWh each month.

“The status quo in Michigan is an old coal-fired power fleet that is vulnerable to higher fuel prices,” said Dianne Byrum, spokesperson for Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs. “Consumers already have to deal with higher prices at the pump. They shouldn’t be paying for it again in their electric bills.”

A report last week showed adding wind energy to the power grid has dropped transmission prices. The report from Massachusetts-based Synapse Energy said adding even more renewable energy sources like wind should continue that trend.

Coal accounts for 60 percent of Michigan’s electric power generation, and 100 percent of that coal is imported from other states like Wyoming and West Virginia. Michigan spends $1.4 billion a year importing coal.

“The MPSC has already determined that all renewable energy is now cheaper than new coal by $41.81 per megawatt hour,” said Mark Pischea, spokesperson for Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs. “A diverse power fleet that uses more renewable energy would help utilities hedge their bets against rising fuel costs and better protect consumers from higher electric bills.”

The Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs campaign is collecting petition signatures to put a 25 percent by 2025 renewable energy standard before voters this November. That would require that 25 percent of Michigan’s electricity come from wind, solar, hydropower or biomass.