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Consumers Energy Receives Energy Star Recognition, Saves Customers $2 Billion on Bills

Russ White MSU Today
Brian Wheeler

“We were pretty excited last month, during Earth Month actually, when our company was named the Energy Star partner of the year, one of many across the country,” says Consumers Energy spokesperson Brian Wheeler. “We work every day to help our customers use a little bit less energy than they need to and cut down on energy waste. 

“And we're pretty proud that over the last 10 years since we really have been very serious about energy efficiency, we've helped our homes and businesses that we serve save over $2 billion on their bills thanks to doing things like installing energy efficient light bulbs and/or insulation in the attic.

“The funny thing about energy efficiency is that it's very subtle sometimes. You don't think about it, but when you switch out those old light bulbs that we grew up with, you use less energy and save money. And now it's LED light bulbs. They use maybe a tenth as much energy. They don't give off that heat like those old light bulbs did either. Those sorts of things really do add up.”

Wheeler offers other tips for being more energy efficient and says the company really does want its customers to use less of its product.

“This really is a time of transformation within the energy industry. We are focused, of course, on running a business and being profitable, but we don't want to do this by hoodwinking our customers. We don't want to trick you into using more of our product than you need to. Our job is to be your home for energy solutions. We want you to be wise and efficient to save your money and spend it wisely. And that's true whether you're a homeowner or whether you're a business owner.”

Consumers Energy recently released its The Sustainability Report 2019.

“By 2040 we expect to have no coal in our energy portfolio. We're not going to use coal to generate electricity anymore. By 2040 we're going to work to reduce our carbon emissions from generating plants and power plants by 90 to 92 percent. And we're already well on our way to doing that.

“And then also by 2040 our goal is to have over 40 percent of our power come from renewable sources - wind, solar, and hydroelectric. Taking advantage of our natural resources here in Michigan so that we're generating our own electricity and doing it as carbon free as we can.”

I wondered to Brian whether, with all the gadgets we’re all charging every day, we’re using more energy now than ever at a time when we’re supposed to be cutting back if we can.

“It's a real paradigm shift. Michigan continues to be a growing state. We have more people and more businesses than before, and Michigan is going to keep growing. So raw energy use does continue to grow over time, but that rate of growth has been shaved dramatically for us. Typically, year over year the energy that we provide, the electricity we provide to our customers, that growth has been cut in half by about 50 percent or more year over year because of energy efficiency and people are taking those smart actions we talked about earlier.

At the same time the shift in terms of where we get the energy from is dramatic. Coal used to be across the board in Michigan well over half of what we use to generate electricity. For Consumers Energy it's around 25 or 30 percent today. And it's going to continue to shrink down to zero by 2040.”

As we enter the summer cooling season, Wheeler offers these energy efficiency tips.

“Close your curtains during the day to keep the sunlight out. And turn off the air conditioning at night and open the windows instead if the temperature permits. Let the cool air in at night.

“And one thing I'll share too: Depending on where you live, you may be a Consumers Energy gas or electric customer. But for our electric customers we have been putting switches, basically mechanized devices, on peoples’ air conditioning units. You have to choose to do this voluntarily, of course. These AC switches will help reduce your energy usage on those peak times in the summer time.

“If you can put a switch on your air conditioning unit and you're Consumers Energy electric customer, it turns off your system for 15 minutes at a time at those peak times. If you're home, you probably won't even notice the difference. But what you're going to do is drive down that peak a little bit, that super high spike in terms of energy usage. You're going to knock it down just a little bit and make a big difference in terms of reducing energy usage.”

Programmable thermostats and home energy audits are other ways to become more energy efficient.

“We want people to be thinking about their energy usage, not to be agonizing over it or feeling any sort of anxiety. But you really are in control more than ever before.

“We talk about a triple bottom line as a company. Our job is to focus on people by helping to lower their bills, help the planet by using less energy and help Michigan's prosperity. I think a good healthy environment with people saving money and businesses not spending more than they need to is good for everybody.

“We're looking at a worldwide situation now where people are generating their own electricity from solar panels on their rooftops or at their businesses. They're putting the switches on the AC units to use less energy at peak times. People are in control more than ever before, and we are really excited to be a part of that. We want people to understand that this is transformation in a great way, and there are so many more ways that we're going to take this in the years to come. Probably new technologies and new ideas that we're barely even imagining today. Maybe some going on right here on the campus of Michigan State University that are going to continue to make this an exciting time for years to come.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.

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