Consumers launches renewable energy program


Switch's Pyramid Campus stands in Gaines Township. Courtesy Consumers Energy

Big businesses in West Michigan now are able to take part in a program that will allow them to support and benefit from the development of renewable energy.

Late in August, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved a pilot program that Consumers Energy Co. will offer to its large business customers.

The Voluntary Large Customer Renewable Energy Pilot Program will enable large businesses serviced by Consumers Energy to support the development of renewable energy and, in turn, benefit from having a percentage of their power come from a renewable source.

Businesses that use at least one megawatt of power qualify for the program. Participants can designate how much of their energy use they plan to source, between 20 percent and 100 percent, to match with energy produced from a Consumers-owned wind turbine facility. Participating customers pay a fee of 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour above their regular rates and receive a market-based credit for the wind energy.

The program was initiated through a survey conducted by Consumers Energy for large business customers. Respondents said it was important to them to have access to renewable energy products, and that they wanted a longer-term fixed price on renewable energy.

“What we’re seeing is our customers are becoming more interested in renewable energy,” said Roger Morgenstern, senior public information director for Consumers Energy. “Grand Rapids is very focused on renewable energy.”

Grand Rapids-based data company Switch has been Consumers’ first customer to express interest in the program. A project was announced in May to run the Switch Pyramid Data Center in Grand Rapids on 100 percent renewable energy.

“Sustainably running the internet has been a bedrock principle of Switch since 2000,” said Adam Kramer, Switch executive vice president of strategy. “It was a pleasure to work with Consumers Energy to help us continue to meet our commitment to using 100 percent new renewable resources to power our data centers.”

Through the program, Consumers Energy will help defray the cost of renewable energy on big businesses. The program also will help large business customers adhere to the principles of adopting new renewable resources and utilizing resources that benefit the regional energy economy.

“This program, another element of our clean and lean focus, demonstrates how we can help large Michigan employers, like Switch, to act on their commitments to our state’s economic and environmental future,” said Dan Malone, Consumers Energy senior vice president for energy resources.

“Reception has overall been positive,” Morgenstern said. “General Motors in Grand Rapids also has some renewable energy goals they’d like us to help them meet.”

Consumers Energy has several alternative energy facilities to help with the program. In July, the company broke ground on a new wind energy park in Tuscola County’s Columbia Township. Cross Winds II will have 19 wind turbines that will generate up to 44 megawatts of electricity. Construction is expected to end this year, and the facility will go online beginning in 2018. It is the third wind energy project by Consumers Energy, on top of Cross Winds I in Tuscola County and Lake Winds in Mason County.

Cross Winds II is the latest in Consumers Energy’s total vision of producing greater wind power. The plan outlines a $345-million investment with 81 wind turbines capable of producing up to 155 megawatts of renewable energy.

The company also has two solar gardens in West Michigan, one at Grand Valley State University in Allendale that will generate up to three megawatts of electricity, and another at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo that will generate up to one megawatt of energy.

To date, Consumers Energy provides 10 percent of all customers’ energy from renewable resources and is working toward meeting the standards set by Michigan state law that requires 15 percent of energy to come from renewable resources by 2021.

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