Published in Energy

Utility regulators approve energy efficiency programs for low-income customers

BY Sunday, March 08, 2020 06:30pm

The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved plans to expand energy efficiency programs for low-income customers of the state’s two major utilities.

At a March 5 meeting, the MPSC approved settlements involving Consumers Energy and DTE Energy that focus energy waste reduction efforts at low-income and affordable housing while increasing energy efficiency assistance for customers with past-due bills. The ruling affects electricity customers of DTE and Consumers, as well as DTE natural gas customers.

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The settlement reached between Consumers, MPSC staff and environmental groups authorizes the Jackson-based utility to invest in cold-climate heat pumps for income-qualified customers on a pilot basis.

DTE Electric’s settlement increases low-income efficiency spending by $10 million, including $1 million for heat pump investments.

Energy waste reduction “encompasses a broad range of efforts to cut waste, improve efficiency and reduce energy use to save utility costs for customers and make energy more affordable,” according to the MPSC.

An annual report issued by the MPSC last month showed each dollar spent on energy waste reduction programs saves customers $3.18. In 2018, $332 million spent on electric and natural gas efficiency programs will result in lifecycle savings of nearly $1.1 billion, according to the report. In that year, nearly $40 million was for programs for income-qualified customers.

Energy waste reduction resources are obtained at a cost of $17 per megawatt-hour. Generation from a new natural gas plant is nearly $43 per megawatt-hour.

Additionally, as coal plants close across the state, energy waste reduction “helps to fill the gap in meeting customer needs,” according to the MPSC report.

Energy laws passed in 2016 set a goal to achieve a 35 percent clean energy portfolio that includes both renewables and energy waste reduction.

A long-term energy planning process also created under the 2016 laws directs utilities to show the costs and benefits of energy efficiency. Both utilities have plans to ramp up efficiency investments in the coming years as part of their clean energy portfolios. 

Consumers Energy officials have said that customer efficiency programs, which keep demand from growing, can prevent the utility from building up to three new natural gas plants in the coming decades.

Read 2392 times Last modified on Monday, 09 March 2020 13:21
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