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Electric choice companies will stay in business (for now)

power lines in trees
Steffan Vilcans
Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Customers who rely on alternative electricity providers are breathing a sigh of relief.  That's after state regulators set a rule that will likely let the providers keep operating at least through 2023, according to the Alliance for Michigan Energy Consumers.

Alternative electric companies, also known as electric choice, can serve up to 10% of DTE Energy and Consumers Energy customers.  The lower rates offered by electric choice companies attract customers with big electric bills like school districts. 

Rick Terres is Associate Superintendent of Howell Public Schools. He says Livingston County schools save about $700,000 a year with electric choice.  In Oakland County, "they're all saving upwards of $4 million," he says.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says for now, electric companies only need to show a fraction of their peak capacity power is based in Michigan, but over time, the amount will rise.  

Eventually the requirement could put alternative suppliers out of business.  That's because DTE and Consumers own most of the power plants in the state.

Terres says his district is preparing for that possibility.  The district will likely ask voters to approve a bond to pay for energy efficiency improvements to school buildings.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.