Consumers Energy, which provides electricity to more than half of Michigan residents, will raise the cost of electricity during peak hours this summer.
From 2 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, customers will pay about 50% more for their electricity.
Brian Rich, Consumers Energy’s chief customer officer, said he knows that’s when people are most keen to run their air conditioners. But he said the company isn’t trying to profit off of people’s need for electricity.
“The single trickiest conversation I have is with customers who ask me, ‘Why are you encouraging me to use less of your product?’” he said. “The truth of the matter is, yes, we want customers to use less.”
Rich said some of the company’s power plants sit idle most of the year -- except for hot summer afternoons, when demand surges, driven by residential air conditioning.
When that happens, he said, the company switches on some of its dirtiest power plants.
If peak demands continue to grow, said Rich, Consumers Energy will have to build more power plants that will also sit idle most of the year.
Instead of spending money on that construction, he said the company would rather focus on improving reliability and preparing for the arrival of electric vehicles, which will shift demand for energy from gasoline to electricity.
The average consumer would pay about $2 more a month if they don’t change their peak energy usage, Rich said. He’s not sure if that will be enough to change behavior.
“We’re going to learn about how much customers are willing to take action this summer. We’re going to find out about how much customers are willing to respond to these types of price signals to be able to reduce their peak consumption,” he said.
The company’s full rate schedule, and tips for avoiding electricity use during peak times, are on the Consumers Energy website.