LANSING — Members of the Michigan Retailers Association (MTA) can save on their electricity costs by plugging into a program called Electric Choice.
MRA President and COO James Hallan said most participants have reported savings of 10 percent to 20 percent, while some have chopped their electric bills by 30 percent.
“In this tough economic climate, retailers need to reduce operating expenses any way they can. Cutting your business electric bill goes straight to your bottom line,” said Hallan.
The MRA was one of the first groups in the state to jump on the electric-deregulation bandwagon and offer its members an alternative. It launched Electric Choice almost 18 months before full deregulation became effective last month.
Although Electric Choice is seen as a success now, it did have a rather rocky start. When retailers first signed on to the program, they had long delays in getting switched over to their new supplier. Some even received multiple monthly bills during that time.
DTE Energy Marketing was the program’s first supplier, but then withdrew from it.
“We felt that the utilities were dragging their feet on this because they really didn’t want to do it. In fact, we even complained to the Public Service Commission about the slowness in implementing the program,” said Tom Scott, MRA vice president of communications and public affairs.
So the MRA stopped signing up retailers until it could get Quest Energy of Ann Arbor to replace DTE Energy Marketing. Sign-ups began again last October and about 50 members with 100 locations are getting their juice for less from the Electric Choice program.
“The time between signing the contract and the actual switchover to Quest should be no more than six to eight weeks. Most of that waiting period involves the time required for the original power company to install a new meter that can be connected to a phone line for remote reading,” said Hallan.
Scott said that when the state stopped requiring a supplier to get a franchise agreement with a local unit of government before offering service in an area also cut the time lag and got retailers hooked up faster.
The cost of electricity from Quest Energy is less than nine cents per kilowatt-hour and is based on usage during off-peak hours, such as evenings and weekends. Contracts with Quest are offered for three years.
“Since we’ve hooked up with Quest, we haven’t had any problems and things have gone smoothly,” said Scott. “It’s a great program for the bulk of our membership. Even small and medium-sized retailers can see some savings from it.”
Members who currently get their electricity from DTE or Consumers Energy can switch to Quest through Electric Choice. But those who are served by a municipal power company can’t make the change. For more information, call Robin Gregory at (800) 366-3699.
The MRA has 5,000 members who operate over 12,000 stores in Michigan.
“Switching to Quest Energy involves minimal cost and effort on the part of the retailer and results in immediate savings,” said Hallan. “We would like to see large numbers of retailers take advantage of this great opportunity.”