City finds way to ‘go green’ and cut costs

“When someone sees a charge of $1 on their bill … it will create a program that will help us reduce the amount of energy that the residents now use.”
— Mayor James DeSana

By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers

 

WYANDOTTE — Municipal Services has found ways to save residents some money while still complying with new state energy mandates.

 

The Clean Renewable and Efficient Energy Act of 2008 requires Municipal Services to develop and implement plans to obtain at least 10 percent of the energy furnished to costumers from renewable resources by 2015.
Officials also must reduce the consumption of electricity by instituting energy efficiency measures.

 

“I think when people hear about this, it appears as if it doesn’t impact the consumer, but it does,” Mayor James DeSana said.

 

The mandates could mean extra charges on residents’ energy bills, but Municipal Services has come up with plans to minimize the costs.

 

Melanie McCoy, general manager of Municipal Services, addressed two central issues with the mandate: renewable energy and energy optimization, or efficiency.

 

She said the city has been working on renewable energy for a long time and has plans set. It has contracts for wind turbines and landfill gas projects, in addition to looking into a anaerobic digester that will process sewage sludge to generate electricity.

 

McCoy said the city entered into the contracts because of the new law passed in December.

 

“As part of this law, they say you have to start generating or supplying the green power in 2012 and gradually phase it in,” she said. “We have these three projects, the wind, digester and landfill, modeled into our plan for the city.”

 

Even though Wyandotte is not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission, it must comply with the new mandates.

 

“This is not an option,” she said. “This isn’t just because we want to do it. This is what we have to do.”

 

Despite the changes, McCoy doesn’t expect consumers’ rates to increase due to the renewable energy aspect of the mandate.

 

“If you’re in some other utility areas, there is going to be a line item charge for both the renewable energy and the energy efficiency,” she said. “The renewable energy could be up to $3 a month for residential, $16 for commercial and $187 for industrial.

 

“That was the maximum, but we’re going to be able to do it without that.”

 

Even though the line item charge for renewable energy isn’t expected to appear on Wyandotte consumers’ bills, McCoy warns that renewable energy isn’t necessarily cheaper.

 

Municipal Services’ current model shows the wind turbines at about 9 cents per kilowatt hour, while the coal burned in the power plant costs 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

 

“The value is it’s green and the costs aren’t going to escalate like with coal and gas,” she said. “Every form of generation has it’s pros and cons.”

 

While customers won’t necessarily see a price increase with renewable energy, they will see a slight increase with the energy efficiency aspect of the mandate.

 

Municipal Services must reduce all of its customers’ energy usage by 0.3 percent. To achieve that, the department will be required to collect on about 0.75 percent of its megawatt load.

 

That translates to about 15 cents per kilowatt hour, or about a $1 a month for residential, $14.50 for commercial and $200 for industrial a month for four years.

 

The money from those charges will go toward efficiency projects throughout the city to reduce overall energy usage.

 

In the first year Municipal Services will be buying compact fluorescent lighting for the city and starting efficient lighting projects.

 

“Another project they have found successful is the refrigerator buyback program,” McCoy said, “so everybody that has those old, inefficient refrigerators in their basement or garage can turn them in.

 

“The target is to get those out of circulation, and that really cuts down a lot on energy demand.”

 

An “inefficient refrigerator” is considered anything older than 12 years. Municipal Services will pay about $10 per refrigerator.

 

Even with the additional rate charge, McCoy said if customers utilize energy efficient products, it should even out.

 

“I use the analogy of the bottle law,” she said. “It was instituted to encourage recycling. This is to encourage energy efficiency.

 

“The value is going to be to the people taking advantage of these programs we put into effect.”

 

During the four years customers are charged, the city will institute a number of projects. They include the exchange of older window air conditioners and out-of-date dehumidifiers in the second year.

 

“When someone sees a charge of $1 on their bill — and this is mandated — it will create a program that will help us reduce the amount of energy that the residents now use in this community,” DeSana said.

 

The program is expected to start in July, which is when customers can expect to see the line item charge appear on their utility bill. The price is not expected to increase over the four years.

 

“As far as I am concerned, the future looks bright with green energy in Wyandotte,” Councilman Todd Browning said.

 

 

For more information about the renewable and efficient energy plans and programs, go to the Municipal Services Web site at www.wyan.org.

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