Good environmental stewardship or Chutzpah?

19 Apr 2011

This week the mail brought us a solicitation from DTE – asking us to pay $2.50 amonth to their Green Currents program.  The program reportedly will support “the generation of electricity from Michigan-based, renewable energy sources including wind energy and biomass (landfill gas and methane gas from cow manure)”.   Sounds like excellent environmental stewardship, doesn’t it?  Over 20,000 DTE customers so far  reportedly agree and have signed up.

The fine print at the bottom says “All customers are required to pay the full applicable renewable energy surcharge necessary to facilitate compliance with Michigan’s recently enacted energy portfolio standard.  Your Green Currents charge is in addition to the renewable energy portfolio charge.”   So, what does this mean? 

In October of 2008, Governor Granholm signed Public Act 295 into law. This Act established a Renewable Energy Standard for the State of Michigan requiring Michigan electric providers to achieve a retail supply portfolio including at least 10% renewable energy by 2015, with some implementation beginning in 2012. The Act also mandated that utilities include energy efficiency programs and allowed them to charge for that too. 

Beginning at the end of 2009, DTE began charging each one of its 2.1 Million customers $3 per month ($75.6 Million per year!) to support its investment in renewable power sources (interestingly, DTE just announced the construction of 3 new windfarms).  DTE also began charging a variable amount each month (this month, I was billed $2.59) to subsidize the sale of energy-efficient light bulbs, winterization and insulation, and home energy audits to improve energy efficiency, typically for poorer homeowners.

When I called DTE to ask why I should consider this, the very nice young lady on the phone gave me a lot of platitudes but not much in the way of a reasoned substantive answer – nor could she tell me how much of DTE’s 2010 profit DTE was putting into this program.  She also didn’t mention the DTE Solar Currents program which actually helps fund the installation of solar power on individual homes and businesses – reducing their electrical bills directly.

If it costs more upfront to move toward these renewable power sources and improve energy efficiency and it’s good for the environment and everyone’s bearing the cost under the watchful eye of the MPSC, that seems OK.  But when a for-profit company that made $630 Million in profit last year asks its customers to pay to support further investments in green energy in Michigan seems, well…..  My Yiddish – English dictionary defines “chutzpah” as “unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall; audacity; nerve.”

Leave a Comment to “Good environmental stewardship or Chutzpah?”

  1. Lori T. Williams 19. Apr, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Now I know why DTE has been soliciting me by phone and hanging up when my voicemail starts, without leaving a message. I didn’t answer their call since my bills are paid and I figured it was some kind of solicitation. I agree with you and don’t think it is good business for DTE to expect us to fund this when they have plenty of profits to work with.

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