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6 Tips to (Efficiently) Survive Summer Temp Spikes

Summer temperature spikes can put a strain on our electric grid and on your energy budget. Try our tips and tricks for managing summer temps and becoming an energy efficient all-star!

  • Invest in a programmable thermostat or use your regular one wisely.

    A programmable thermostat can save you an estimated 10% a year by adjusting the temperature for you so you’re not using the A/C as much when you’re not at home while keeping a more constant temperature all day, which is more efficient than constantly adjusting up and down. A general guideline is to keep your thermostat set to 78 degrees in the summer when you are home and raise it 5 to 10 degrees when you’re away. “Each degree you raise the thermostat can save up to 3-5% on cooling costs.” If you have a regular thermostat, try setting it a few degrees warmer than you normally would.

  • Take advantage of your ceiling fans to lower the temperature and keep air circulating throughout your home.

    Using your ceiling fans to supplement your A/C during the summer can lower your home’s temperature by an average of four degrees. That will also help prevent your A/C from kicking on every 30 minutes just to stay cool and let’s air circulate, preventing it from becoming muggy or stagnant.

  • Make energy efficiency fun for the whole family.

    The family that saves together stays together! Get your kids involved in the action and help them learn energy efficiency tips they can use now and in the future. The Michigan Agency for Energy has some great tips on helping kids learn to be energy efficient, including turning off lights and electronics, unplugging devices and appliances when they’re not in use, using water wisely, and more.

  • Use shades or film on windows.

    While Michigan’s summer nights can still get fairly cool, the days can be uncomfortably hot, and glass windows magnify the heat. Have the shades open in the morning when temps are cool to help warm the house naturally, but don’t forget to close them or use films on windows to filter the direct sunlight and prevent the temperature from rising too much. “Pay particular attention to west-facing and south-facing windows, where more sunlight enters” and can cause temps to climb more quickly.

  • Go natural when you can.

    Another good tip to cut energy use in the summer is to take advantage of natural daylight. Turn your home or office lights off during the day when rooms are naturally lit by the sun. Also, when the temperature cools in the evenings, consider turning off the A/C and opening your windows.

  • Keep your HVAC system finely tuned and maintained — and use it smartly.

    Change HVAC filters more often during the summer months. Check your air filter monthly, especially during the summer, and if it looks dirty, change it. “A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool, wasting energy.” Also, have a professional check out your system periodically to keep it well-tuned. Another good HVAC tip is to shut off vents in unoccupied rooms to save 5-10% on your cooling costs.

Looking for more tips to help you beat the Michigan heat while saving energy? Try these resources:

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Here Comes the Sun: Top 5 Benefits of Large-Scale Solar

June 21 may have marked the first official day of summer, but for some parts of Michigan, the weather’s just starting to heat up. With the sun out in full force, it’s a good time to talk about this clean energy resource — and how Michigan’s local energy providers are making it work for our state, where the sun doesn’t always shine as brightly as in some other parts of the country.

Large-scale solar offers a number of benefits over smaller solar projects, for both economic and practical reasons:

  • Powering entire communities. Large-scale solar projects can include thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of solar panels. That means instead of just providing power for one home, business, or building, large-scale solar projects help provide power for thousands of local households and businesses, including those that can’t install their own solar panels.

  • Achieving economies of scale. A 2015 study found that large-scale solar projects “are significantly more cost effective.” In fact, the cost of generating energy via large-scale solar is “roughly one-half” the cost per kilowatt-hour of creating the same amount of energy via rooftop solar because of the sheer scale on which large-scale solar arrays absorb sunlight, as well as “greater solar electric output resulting from optimized panel orientation and tracking” of large-scale solar systems.

  • Supporting local jobs and economies. Solar energy jobs are booming in Michigan, driven in no small part by the large-scale solar projects built by local energy providers, who are by far the largest investors in solar power in the state. Large-scale solar projects by their very nature require more labor — and involve more industries, including manufacturing, construction, engineering, etc. — which supports more Michigan jobs and puts more money back into local communities.

  • Producing even cleaner clean energy. Large-scale solar projects help lower carbon emissions more efficiently. Comparisons show that generating 300 megawatts of power via large-scale solar “avoids approximately 50% more carbon emissions than an equivalent amount of residential-scale” (rooftop) solar generation.

  • Expanding access to solar. Many people can’t access solar power via rooftop panels. They may not be able to afford installing and maintaining their own solar panel system or they may live in an apartment or condo complex where they’re unable to do so. Large-scale solar projects help more consumers connect to solar power, giving more people — including low-income Michiganders — access to cleaner energy to power their homes and businesses.

Remember that the sun is not just working to infuse some vitamin D into your system, but is also being harnessed by Michigan energy companies to infuse more clean energy into our electric system. Large-scale solar is revitalizing our energy mix and helping us secure a cleaner energy future.

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Supply Chain Spotlight: Spectrum Construction Services

Michigan’s energy supply chain extends far beyond the local energy providers that generate and distribute power to homes and businesses. A broad range of other businesses across the state play crucial roles in keeping energy affordable, reliable, and sustainable for all of us.

From companies that help maintain power plants, to businesses that provide welding services, to the contract service providers, construction and engineering businesses, and many more, literally thousands of businesses large and small across our state are supported by Michigan’s energy sector.

Today, we’re spotlighting Spectrum Construction Services.

Spectrum Construction Services

Based in Fenton, Spectrum Construction Services is a wireless communications contractor specializing in civil, electrical, and wireless tower construction. Kevin Hill founded Spectrum Construction in 1999 after working as an apprentice in Ann Arbor. The son of an electrical contractor, both Michigan and electrical contracting run in his veins.

Installing and maintaining cell towers is no small task, and delivering power to cell towers is a critical service that requires highly specialized skills. Once a location is established for a cell tower, energy companies turn to specialized businesses like Spectrum Construction Services and their experts to design and install the electrical system that supports the tower. The key to a successful installation is preventing service interruption.

Just about every component of a cell tower requires electricity, from the antenna, remote radio head, amplifier, and microwave dish, to the cell site router and base station transceiver system. The electric system to support this highly sensitive technology includes not only power conduits, circuit breakers, and meters, but also backup systems. Many towers also have monitoring systems in place that report the conditions of a tower, including its current power status, to its operator. Without reliable power, these towers couldn’t deliver the communication services we now rely on daily. Cell and smart phones, gaming, e-commerce, and a plethora of other daily tasks all depend on a smoothly functioning wireless communication network.

Having started his own business, Hill also understands the importance of choosing Michigan when it comes to energy policies that can either promote job growth or limit it. “As a Michigan business owner,” Hill says, “I believe it is critical for us to be self-reliant and provide jobs in our state...As an entrepreneur, I understand how important it is to our economy that we maintain control of our own energy decisions here in Michigan. As long as this is the case, jobs stay in the state and revenue flows throughout our communities.”

Hill is just one of hundreds of local business owners involved in the energy supply chain who are speaking out in support of Michigan energy. AMP is proud to showcase companies like Spectrum Construction Services that play such an important role in powering Michigan and local communities across our state.

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Electric Rates: How Do YOU Benefit from Rates and Rate Increases?

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to electric rates in our state. Did you know that over the last three years Michigan was the only state in the Great Lakes region to reduce its electric rates? Or that Michigan’s industrial rates are nearly 10 percent lower than Wisconsin’s?

More important than what the rates are, though, is how they’re used — and how everyone in Michigan ultimately benefits from what we invest in our electric system.

Think about it. A lot goes into producing energy. Michigan produces a complex energy mix from a variety of sources, including natural gas, wind, hydro, and nuclear, as well as coal. It takes specialized equipment, technology, and skill to extract energy from these resources. Once produced, this energy has to travel safely and efficiently through circuits and utility poles until it reaches the right voltage as it enters your home. Electric rates help pay for not just the charge emitting from our outlet, but for the entire process from production to transmission to consumption.

WHAT’S PAID HERE, STAYS HERE

Rate payments going to Michigan energy providers are reinvested in Michigan. Just like our bridges and roads, our energy infrastructure needs to be updated and repaired. Michigan must maintain substations, transformers, and utility poles; trim back trees compromising transmission wires; and incorporate new technology to make our grid hardier and stronger for the long term. Revenues generated from consumer electric rates pay for grid improvements that translate into new construction jobs, contracts with local suppliers, and lease payments to landowners.

Michigan-based energy providers also support our communities through tax revenue. These funds go to essential services like education, healthcare, emergency services and more.

A REASONABLE INCREASE

Reasonable rate increases produce great benefits for average Michiganders. How? Increased revenue improves our energy infrastructure, ensuring we can maintain a reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy future.

Will Michiganders see their electric rates increase somewhat over the next few years? Yes, given that our state is making dramatic — and crucial — changes in how our electricity is generated and delivered. Because Michigan is a regulated market, rates are not determined by utility companies, but instead are decided by an independent state government agency, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). Energy companies make recommendations for rate changes, then must demonstrate just how the increased revenues will be used. The MPSC ultimately decides what rate increases are reasonable for industrial, residential and business consumers.

Unfortunately, in deregulated markets, this protection does not exist. Instead, advocates of deregulation will point to the free market as the mechanism to lower energy costs. As we’ve seen before, this policy has not lowered rates effectively. Rates in deregulated states clock in at 25 percent higher than in regulated markets.

Take a look at the graph below to see just how Michigan’s rates compare to our neighboring states over the last three years. Over the last three years, industrial rates in Michigan dropped 3 percent while rates went up in Ohio (2.9 percent), Illinois (2.3 percent), Indiana (1.6 percent), and Wisconsin (1.5 percent).

Same story for retail rates in the same span: down in Michigan (-0.1 percent); up in Illinois (3.6 percent), Ohio (1.9 percent), Indiana (1.6 percent), and Wisconsin (1.3 percent).

The Alliance for Michigan Power is here to demystify rates — what they are, how they’re used, and who sets them. The best news is that electric rates ultimately benefit every Michigander by improving our electric grid and securing our energy future.



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Regulated States vs. Deregulated States: How Electric Rates Compare

Deregulating energy markets seems like a good idea in theory. Competition should lead to lower rates for everyone. But it doesn’t work that way in practice. In fact, across the nation, deregulation has more often than not led to higher electric rates. Average electricity rates in deregulated states are a staggering 25 percent higher than in states that are regulated, which makes it no wonder that deregulated states also suffer lower customer satisfaction.

Rates paid to out-of-state utilities don’t benefit all Michigan consumers. They go straight into the pockets of retail providers that are more interested in their own profit than improving infrastructure and building new generation for their customers. Instead of trying to import energy from out-of-state, we should be investing in Michigan’s own energy infrastructure and our ability to produce our own power.

In November 2016, Public Sector Consultants (PSC) published a study reviewing Ohio’s experience with a deregulated market. The study found “broad success for deregulation has either not materialized or has come with other regulatory and financial costs.” One of these costs comes at the expense of consumers. Rates in deregulated markets often are more volatile, and there is little evidence these fluctuations reduce consumer costs or improve the overall consumer experience.

Another study — by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power — states, “over the long term, Texans living in areas with retail electric deregulation are likely to have paid more for power than Texans living outside deregulation.”

Finally, a report from the American Public Power Association found deregulation doesn’t achieve the consumer savings advocates once thought it would. In fact, after 19 years of deregulation experiments in various states, rates in deregulated states are still higher, with the gap only narrowing by 1/10th of a cent. “Though the gap has narrowed in both percentage and nominal terms, the original promise of greatly reduced prices has not materialized.”

DEREG OR REG: WHICH IS THE WINNER?
Some officials in Lansing are trying to revive the deregulation debate, and often point to states like Ohio and Texas to “prove” that deregulating electric markets is a good idea. The facts, however, paint a different — and altogether less positive — picture.

Our state’s hardworking residents, businesses, and institutions should not have to pay more for electricity because of misguided policies. We need Lansing to focus on in-state energy production, creating jobs here instead of shipping them out-of-state. We can choose Michigan, strengthen our economy, and improve our energy infrastructure to protect our ability to make our own energy choices now and for the future.

Do you have a story about how deregulation negatively impacted you as an energy consumer? Let us know your story today!

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