Farmers Could Choose Alternative Energy Suppliers Without Counting Towards Electric Choice

LANSING – Farmers, producers and processors would be able to choose alternative energy suppliers without counting toward the 10 percent cap on electric choice under a bill discussed Tuesday in the House Energy Policy Committee.

The panel took no action on HB 5387, sponsored by Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Williams Township), the committee chair. Supporters of the proposal included Michigan Sugar Company and the Michigan Agri-Business Association with opponents including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the utilities.

Glenn said his intention in bringing up the bill was not to actually single out the agriculture industry, but to show how the cost of electricity can affect several segments of the state’s economy. He said the agriculture industry contributes $101 billion annually to the state’s economy.

“The profit margin in agriculture is slim, so anything we can do to help them keep some of the money they work so hard to make is of immense help to them. If we allowed more electric choice for farmers, they would have that opportunity,” he said.

Ray VanDriessche, director of government relations for Michigan Sugar Company, supports the legislation and said it would save $1.4 million annually if the company were able to participate in the choice program.

When asked what the company would do with the savings, he said he could not say if it would lead to price reductions, but it could lead to more jobs and reinvestment into the business.

Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) said he and Glenn disagree on the potential for a cost shift if large bill payers – like Michigan Sugar Company and others – are taken out of the utility system.

“If you take a large payer like Michigan Sugar out of the system … it is going to leave everybody else to pay the bill,” he said.

Chuck Lippstreu, with the Michigan Agri-Business Association, said while working with Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, progress has been made on reliability and energy savings, there is still more progress that can be made.

“The ability of agribusinesses to choose where their energy comes from is one way to help reduce the costs, by encouraging competition, that’s why we are here in support of the bill,” he said.

There was no testimony in opposition to the bill on Tuesday and the committee did not act on the legislation.

This story was published by Gongwer News Service.