Energy grant will improve efficiency, cut some bills

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LANSING — The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved an $8.1 million grant for Public Sector Consultants to help families and small businesses with limited assets become energy efficient.

Public Sector Consultants, a policy research corporation based in Lansing, will use the money for the Michigan Saves program.

Sally Talberg, senior consultant for energy and environment at the Public Sector Consultants, said the money will be paid over a 28-month period to allow them to “shape the scope of the program.”

“This grant is a resource to get the program launched and to set up the framework to create a self-sustaining program that can live beyond the grant period,” she said.

Talberg said the firm has a partnership with the Delta Institute to help with the technical analysis and program-design work. The Chicago-based research company, with a Lansing office, has worked with Wyandotte and other municipalities on similar programs.

Monica Martinez, commissioner at the MPSC, said the grant consists of state and federal dollars to ensure the program’s development. Some money will be used to create a statewide administrative structure. But, a big portion of the money will be used for the Michigan Saves program, Martinez said.

Public Sector Consultants is required to solicit additional funding. These funds may come from federal grants or foundations to help ensure viability and sustainability after the initial grant money is used, Martinez said.

She said Public Sector Consultants demonstrated to the commission its willingness to go above and beyond what is required to manage the fund.

Not only does this program benefit participants but all energy consumers, Martinez said, because it is designed to decrease costs overall. All customers will see a reduction in demand at peak times along with the overall demand in the future, she said.

“This grant is a major step in the right direction because the program has been talked about for years but now the ball is rolling,” Martinez said.

But even though the money has been awarded, Public Sector Consultants cannot receive the money until it reaches a contract with the state, Martinez said. The process could take several weeks.

Skip Pruss, director of Michigan Department of Energy Labor and Economic Growth, said once the initiative is functioning, it will operate as a “pay as you save program.” Consumers will tap its funds to become energy efficient and pay back those costs over time while saving money on their energy bills. The individual’s utility company defines the terms of the reimbursement.

Michigan will be the first state to create the necessary regulations and implement such a program aimed at energy efficiency, Pruss said.

MPSC Chair Orjiakor Isiogu said, "The Michigan Saves system will benefit state residents, businesses and energy providers by reducing consumer energy expenditures while simultaneously supporting thousands of new jobs, new businesses and business expansion in Michigan."

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