Some people are willing to pay extra to use electricity generated from wind and other renewable sources. Should everyone pay for "green power," even if they don’t want it?
No, the state appeals court said.
State utility regulators had no authority to direct Consumers Energy Co. to collect a nickel per meter each month to subsidize renewable energy, the court said.
Consumers’ business customers have been paying the fee since 2004. Residential customers were to start paying in 2006, but the ruling apparently will scratch that. The fee was expected to raise $1.05 million next year.
"The Legislature clearly intended consumer participation in green-power programs to be voluntary," the court said Wednesday.
While there may be "positive economic and public policy implications" in promoting green power, those factors have no role in determining whether the Michigan Public Service Commission exceeded its authority, the court said.
The appeal was filed against the commission by Attorney General Mike Cox.
In May 2004, the commission ordered Consumers to start a renewable-energy program and use the "minimal" monthly charge to help cover costs not met by customers who pay extra for green power.
The utility announced a program in Grand Rapids in September. Customers can pay $2.50 a month extra for a "green block" of 150 kilowatt hours or match 100 percent of their monthly use for a premium of less than 2 cents per kilowatt hour.
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and Consumers President John Russell of Rockford were among the first to sign up. Wind will supply most power, while about 25 percent will come from landfill gases.
"Several hundred" customers have enrolled so far, Consumers spokesman Dan Bishop said. "There clearly is support for renewable energy."
Neither the company nor MPSC an immediate comment on the court ruling or its impact on the program.
Consumers has said it could serve 30,000 customers with power generated by independent renewable-energy projects.