Hearing scheduled on legislation Dec. 5th
Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Twp., chairman of the House Energy Policy Committee, said today he will escalate his fight to help more Michigan schools save money through the state's Electricity Choice program.
Glenn plans to hold a hearing Tuesday, Dec. 5th, on legislation that would allow all schools to choose where they buy their electricity. His statement follows testimony before the committee this week by Tuscola Independent School District Supt. Gene Pierce, president of the Michigan Schools Energy Cooperative, which already saves schools across the state an average of $15 million a year in energy costs through the choice program.
“Because of an arbitrary cap on the Electricity Choice program, we have an absurd situation in current law in which one public school district is saving tens of thousands of dollars or more a year on its electricity bills, but it’s against the law for a neighboring school district to do the exact same thing,” said Glenn. “I agree with Supt. Pierce that we should give all schools the freedom to choose where they buy electricity so they can redirect more savings into the classroom.”
Glenn noted that in the legislative district he represents, Bay City Schools save on electricity by buying from Wolverine Power instead of Consumers Energy. But four other school districts he represents -- Bullock Creek, Meridian, Midland, and Pinconning -- are forced by law to buy from Consumers at a higher price. Similarly, in Tuscola County, all school districts save money through Electricity Choice except Vassar Public Schools, which is prohibited by law from doing so.
The Energy Policy Committee will hear testimony Tuesday on House Bill 4708, sponsored by Rep. John Reilly of Oakland County.
Reilly’s bill would allow all K-12 schools to buy electricity from any provider they choose. The goal is to help educational institutions save money on one of their highest costs of doing business. Currently, most schools in the state do not have the option to capitalize on potential savings through providers other than Consumers Energy and DTE because Michigan law caps the program at 10 percent of the electricity market, a cap that was filled almost a decade ago. An additional 11,000 electricity customers have signed up in a queue to enter the program if a current Electricity Choice customers drops out, which isn't likely.
Pierce testified before the Energy Policy Committee last Tuesday that Tuscola ISD's savings average $35 per student, or $250,000 per year -- enough money to buy 500 laptop computers at $500 each.
“We take electricity for granted, yet it has a major impact on the school budget,” Pierce said in his written testimony. “School districts need to take advantage of every opportunity to maximize the use of every available dollar and purchasing electricity through the choice market is one of those cost saving opportunities. ... Schools should be allowed to maximize the use of our funds through Electric Choice and drive more dollars to the business of educating students.”
Statewide, MISEC contracts electricity for 17 percent of Michigan’s K-12 public schools and reports average annual savings of $15 million for its member schools. If more schools could participate, the savings would be far greater, Pierce said.
“All homeowners, businesses, farms, and industries should again be free to choose -- as we were from 2000 to 2008 -- where they buy electricity, just as they're free now to buy natural gas," Glenn said. "Until we have the votes in Lansing to restore full consumer choice to our electricity market, I will continue to push to save taxpayers money by allowing at least our schools the flexibility to buy electricity through a competitive bid process, just like they do other services and commodities. It would save tens of millions of dollars that could be spent on students and teachers instead."
The House Energy Policy Committee is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5 in Room 519 of the House Office Building in downtown Lansing. The bill under discussion will be House Bill 4708.