Don’t Pay for your Utility Company’s Green Energy Program (or Trust Super PACs)
Here’s a fun little story, regardless of what state you reside in. Corporate greed and manipulation seem to be somewhat universal themes. This one will actually save you some money, if you’ve been suckered by feelings of guilt for your energy consumption.
The Utility Green Energy Halo
The monopoly I belong to in my town is DTE energy.
Having a bit of a green thumb, I was excited to find out, a year or so ago, that DTE was running a green energy program called “Green Currents“.
To sign up for the program, you must pay 2 additional cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). This is about a 13% increase over their September price of $0.146 price per kWh.
I thought to myself: “OK, that’s great! I will be able to sleep easier at night knowing that my 13% electric bill premium is going to pay for clean, fresh, renewable energy. Oh, and look, hun: 22,000 customers have signed up already!”
Finger on mouse ready to click enrollment button… “Waaaait a minute! What am I getting here? Would my and every other customer’s 13% premium actually go into a fund to support the building of the next wind turbine? Or solar array?”
“By enrolling, you are supporting the generation of electricity from Michigan-based, renewable energy sources. Eighty-seven percent of the renewable energy we provide comes from biomass sources like cow power (biogas) and landfill gas and 13% comes from wind turbines.”
Hmm… OK. Only 13% of renewable from wind? No solar?
And… what exactly am I “supporting”? Are you going to directly deposit the funds to pay for the next renewable source? Am I supporting your CEO’s multi-million dollar bonus to purchase his next Escalade? Can more “cow power” completely support a state with a population of 9 million? We need more cows!
Can you provide me with any information or assurances? No? Shouldn’t you be increasing renewables on your own without surcharging customers anyways?
I left… discouraged.
Enter Michigan Ballot Proposal 3
On November 2nd, the residents of the State of Michigan have an opportunity to ensure than they will be receiving actual clean energy. A majority vote of “yes” on ballot proposal 3 would create a State of Michigan constitutional amendment to require utilities to obtain at least 25% of their electricity from clean, renewable energy sources by 2025.
Proposal 3 was born through an initiative by citizens that acquired the 322,609 signatures needed to place the proposal on the ballot. And it succeeded. Why would citizens push for this?
- Michigan trails just about every other state in renewables. Only 3.6% of the energy used in Michigan is from renewable sources. As a comparison, Iowa already gets 23% of its electricity from renewables.
- Coal makes up 60% of Michigan’s energy mix, despite the fact the state has no coal reserves.
- Michigan consumers spend more than $1.7 billion a year importing coal from other states.
- All that money for other state’s resources ships money and jobs out of our state’s economy. A recent study by Michigan State University estimated that the 25% mandate would create 74,000 new jobs in the state. For a state with an 8.5% unemployment rate? That sounds very welcome.
Surely, a company with such a green thumb and commitment to growing renewables like DTE Energy would support such an endeavor. Right?
They, along with the state’s other utility, Consumer’s Energy (with its own renewable surcharge program called “Green Generation“), decided to exercise their freedom of speech and formed an unlimited-funds Super PAC called “Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan Coalition”, or “CARE” for short. Each company contributed $3 million to fund Super PAC ads through CARE. These ads will undoubtedly go towards supporting the passage of proposal 3, because CARE cares about Michigan families and green energy, right?
Wait – they all went towards anti-proposal 3 attack ads? And the expense of those attack ads will exceed the annual surcharges from their green energy programs?
Maybe our green stewards suddenly aren’t so green, after all. At least, they don’t intend to be until:
a. the cost of renewable source + infrastructure to build it is less than the cost of coal
b. they are forced to do it by the citizens who have no real consumer choice in who supplies their energy
Maybe they never really intended for the programs to do anything other than mislead customers to pay more for their electricity with no actual environmental benefit, while they avoided REAL renewable progress by appearing to actually give a damn.
Meanwhile, all those Green Currents and Green Generation premiums might as well have gone directly towards paying for their anti-renewable TV ads (which cost right around the annual revenue attained from the green programs).
But that’s OK, nobody will know, it’s not DTE Energy and Consumers Energy that are running the ads. It’s “CARE”, and with a name like that, they must be looking out for our best interests.
- Don’t subscribe to your utilities green energy program. EVER. They are complete sham “halo” campaigns. The only thing that will actually encourage a utility to switch to renewables are lower costs or government. You paying them extra will not do anything. Put those funds in to a savings account and save up your money and buy your own solar array some day so you will no longer be reliant on your utility at all. This is coming from an environmental die-hard.
- Demand your utility advance renewable energy on its own (or force them to do it to through the democratic process).
- Never trust a Super PAC or a political ad. Always do research on your own before voting and change the channel if you see or hear a political ad.