The Era For Corporate Green

June 3, 2002
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Finally, a big score by those who had the foresight to include in the “utility deregulation” law approved last year a provision to create the Michigan Renewable Energy Program. The Michigan Public Service Commission last week approved Consumers Energy Co.’s initiative, Green Power Pilot Program. Not surprisingly, a Grand Rapids business owner was among the first to immediately sign a long-term producer contract.

Richard VanderVeen, Bay Windpower LLC, is providing wind turbines in Mackinaw City to produce 900 kilowatts of electricity to sell to Consumers.

The Michigan Public Service Commission and the breadth of the Consumers Energy service area make it possible to enter this era with a necessarily large market area.

VanderVeen’s tenacity, in an industry with plenty of talkers but few doers, is a prime example of an entrepreneur — who combines stewardship.

Such is the basis of a book written in the late ‘90s by Peter Wege, titled Economicology. The former Steelcase chairman has been a relentless proponent of corporate green. Steelcase represents such stewardship in very nearly everything from the prairie grass surrounding its research and design pyramid to its newest plant, in which all components are environment friendly. In fact, there are more examples of unique products and services in this community than people are aware.

The story in the July 9 issue of Grand Rapids Business Journal (a prelude to MPSC’s action) defines the problems associated in connecting renewable energy sources to Michigan’s electrical grid, and the unique cost differentials. As was reported, however, those costs differentials are closing. And advocates of renewable energy also add the intangible costs associated with burning fossil fuels: health care issues, pollution control and ecological damage.

The acumen and knowledge base in this region is furthered by the work of Holland Board of Public Works’ plan to create a consortium of municipal utilities to review renewable energy options. The Lansing Board of Water and Light is developing a “green” rate for customers — 49 percent of whom have indicated they are extremely interested in such an option. Traverse City Light and Power customers pay an average of $7.38 a month additional for power from a wind-powered turbine constructed in 1996.

Business and residential customers will have an option on Oct. 1. Business customers, who already receive a lower rate than consumers, would pay an additional 1.5 cents per kilowatt, if they want 50 percent of their power from green sources. Those who wish to have just 10 percent renewable energy would pay an additional 0.3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Now there really is an easy choice for corporate green.  

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