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Manipulation Level: Genius

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One of the disadvantages – or advantages depending on your point of view – of never watching news, local or otherwise, is not knowing what Tom-foolery is afoot. Yesterday for example I heard on the news while driving around that a new rate went into effect yesterday for Consumers Energy, the utility that provides half the state with electricity.

Consumers Energy’s 1.6 million residential electricity customers began paying 50% more during peak afternoon hours this week in an effort to reduce energy generation in the future.

The subsidiary of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. has notified its customers in the Lower Peninsula’s central, northern and western regions in recent weeks of the utility’s move to the new standard summer peak rate. The rate is in effect from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays starting Tuesday through September. Detroit News

Although the crack news reader on WJR reported, and I quote, “Consumers peak rate will increase by 150%” when it is actually 50%.  No problem: nobody teaches math anymore and accuracy in broadcasting is so old school, but that’s a story for another day.

To be clear, Consumers and other electric utilities like it, are doing this for the greater good: to save the earth from carbon abusers who don’t care that the planet is dying.

Warm summer afternoons are when energy is used most. Consumers wants to discourage energy usage at those peak times so it doesn’t have to build more power plants to meet demand, Greg Stevenson – Consumers director of summer peak rates – told MLive in early May.

“If that peak is lowered, we don’t have to build anything,” Stevenson said. “That’s the whole clean energy plan.”

Indeed, that IS the whole clean energy plan – don’t build anything. Ask our fellow citizens in Texas how well that plan works out when you really, really need energy.

I’m not sure at which point energy companies transitioned from regulated monopolies to social architects of consumer behavior but they clearly see their job not strictly as providing energy but rather “rewarding smart energy choices.”

To avoid a higher bill, Consumers has a few recommendations for customers:

  • Avoid doing chores like running the dishwasher or doing laundry between 2 and 7 p.m.
  • Replace old lightbulbs with more efficient LEDs
  • Clean or replace air conditioning filters once a month for more efficiency
  • Turn down your air conditioner – adjusting the temperature by one degree can impact bills by 1 to 3%
  • Install a smart thermostat and join the Smart Thermostat Program, which can automatically turn down your air conditioning during peak hours – MLive

I’d be willing to bet it started sometime in the 1980s when the federally funded LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) introduced utility companies around the nation to the rush of incredibly addictive corporate welfare programs. Or sure, the first few hits were free, but after that it would cost utilities dearly to maintain that welfare high. Soon they would be required to sign on to suicidal schemes like mothballing nuclear and coal plants, not building any new facilities other than the “green” variety like Jennifer Granholm’s Windmills for Michigan.


So, to be clear: both the utility and the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) who approved this nonsense are doing it for your own good.

That peak can be lowered so that there are fewer facilities running at any given time. That benefits all of our ratepayers and the environment. … It’s all geared at education and incentivizing.”

And such schemes have been thoroughly tested in more progressive states:

Time-of-use rates have been used to help facilitate renewable energy integration into the grid in other states, said Greg Keoleian, director for the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan. Most energy providers in California have transitioned to these rates, for example.

“For solar, for example, it’s there during the noon hours, but if you have heavy demand when people get home from work, when the solar is going down, it’s a challenge for utilities to meet that demand,” Keoleian said. “It is all about being able to manage the demand more cost-effectively and also to do it with lower environmental impact.”

I’ve no doubt that after years of proper indoctrination – or should I say “education and incentivizing” – the youth of America will be totally onboard with this scheme; at least until their air conditioners go off and their iPhone battery is dead.

As reader Thomas A. reminds us, the charter of the MPSC in part reads as follows:

The MPSC is to ensure they have adequate supply of electric energy to serve Michigan’s homes and businesses in each service territory when demand is highest and approves the rates and conditions for service, including metering and billing, to residential, commercial, and industrial customers.

They have not been doing that for decades. Instead they have been colluding with utilities to thwart the building of traditional energy plants, decommission old ones and attempt to replace the capacity with green energy technology that is still not ready for prime time when extreme weather presents itself.

But don’t worry – Consumers assures you that this manipulative rate change will only cost customers about $2 extra per month! Sure, because we’ll all expected to do exactly as told and turn up the thermostat when we get home from work during the hottest time of the day during the hottest time of the year. Manipulation level genius!


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