Short-Term Mission Accomplished

December 3, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — It appears the city has found a short-term solution to meeting its three-year-old goal of ensuring that 20 percent of the city’s electric power needs comes from renewable sources. And it may have done so with more than a year to spare. City commissioners believe they met that objective last week when they gave the city permission to participate in the Green Generation Renewable Energy Program offered by Consumers Energy.

By doing that, the city can now enter into an agreement with Consumers that will allow it to purchase a “green block” of energy at what Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong said was a “very favorable rate” of $1.50 per block or less than $7,000 a month for each account, about $160,000 a year. That figure, he said, was below the going market rate.

“We’ve covered the cost of this program in many ways,” said DeLong.

By changing blowers at the wastewater treatment plant, DeLong said the city saves about $340,000 a year in electricity charges there.

DeLong also said the city is being reimbursed for the nuclear power plant Consumers has decommissioned. The water filtration plant has already received refunds totaling $52,000 from that move and will get another $92,000 in credits over the coming year.

The wastewater treatment plant has received nearly $56,000 in credits from Consumers so far and should receive an additional $123,000 by December 2008.

“Consumers has been a great partner in this,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

Green blocks of power consist of electricity that is generated from renewable sources such as wind, forestry waste and agricultural byproducts. Roughly 5 percent of Consumers’ current load generation comes from renewable sources. All the sources in the renewable program are located in Michigan.

The city is expected to sign a 36-month contract with Consumers, an agreement that will also contain an option for 36 more months. Participating in the program would push the city’s renewable electricity output by 15 percent to the 20-percent goal it set in 2005, an objective it wanted to meet by the end of 2008.

“We would become the largest green-generation program in the state,” said DeLong.

By meeting its short-term goal, the city can now look toward its next objectives of locking in medium- and long-term energy sources that are renewable.

“This is not going to affect rates and it’s not going to come out of the general fund,” said Rick Tormala, 2nd Ward Commissioner.

“It’s also going to help preserve some of the greatest resources in the U.S.: the Great Lakes. It’s also going to save the city and the state money,” he added.

DeLong said participating in the Consumers program would also reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.

“I think this is a historic moment for the commission,” said Heartwell, “and I hope it encourages other communities to do the same.”

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