An agreement by a Michigan public utility to expand its low-income efficiency programs and study how the energy burden of vulnerable households can be reduced is being hailed by environmental justice advocates as a crucial move towards fighting energy inequality.
Consumers Energy, the public utility that supplies natural gas and electricity to 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents, will be expanding its low-income efficiency programs—a decision that will include US$1 million to the city of Flint in 2023-2024, in a targeted effort to reduce energy burdens there, writes Utility Dive.
The expansion comes courtesy of a settlement, recently approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission, between the utility and several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Sierra Club, and environmental law non-profit Earthjustice.
Stressing in a statement that “Black and Brown communities in Michigan are struggling to pay their bills,” Earthjustice Senior Attorney Chinyere Osuala heralded the agreement as “a critical step towards fighting energy inequality in the state.”
“The settlement increases Consumers’ proposed budget for income-qualified electric efficiency programs by 29%, to a total of US$85.3 million through 2025, and includes a focus on weatherization, targeted assistance, home repairs, and healthy building materials,” reports Utility Drive.
Consumers will also be boosting the budget for its income-qualified gas efficiency programs to more than $113 million, up 56% over what it had originally proposed.
And it has committed to launch a study this year to identify historical participation and coverage of its income-qualified efficiency programs in order to “identify areas with high numbers of economically vulnerable households” then develop strategies to ensure energy efficiency services are delivered there.