Township signs up with alternative gas, electric provider

FLINT TWP. — With an eye to cutting energy costs, the township board has joined a growing list of businesses and residents switching from Consumers Energy Co. to an alternative natural gas and electricity provider.

In a 4-2 vote last week, the board made the change after a presentation from Thomas F. Maher, president and founder of Consumer Energy Options (CEO), an independent broker of alternative utility services. Despite a similar name, CEO is separate from Consumers Energy, the public utility that has provided gas and electric services to the township probably always.

Maher quoted a one-year fixed rate of $3.69 per cubic feet per month, which he said was at least two dollars cheaper per cubic foot than the current service.

The one-year contract covers gas and electric service for six buildings – the township hall, police and fire departments, and senior citizens center and library.

The new service will be provided by Integrys Energy Services, which Maher said is one of four companies in Michigan and ten nationwide that CEO represents.

Maher explained that Consumers Energy utility line, meter readers and repair services will still be used and the township will get one bill. Nothing but the cost will change. Alternative provider services began with a pilot project in 1998 that became permanent in 2001 and wide open since 2003 – giving businesses and residents the option to choose an alternate energy provider.

“This isn’t a new risky idea,” Maher said.

Flint-based CEO operates in 33 states. Several municipalities already have signed up with the company includ- ing Davison, Mt. Morris, Swartz Creek, Argentine Township and Lapeer County.

“We have a nice sprinkling of municipalities who have entrusted us with their energy bills,” he said.

Other area customers who’ve made the switch to CEO include the Flint Mass Transit Authority, Courtland Center Mall, the Boy Scouts of America, Tall Pine Council, Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Luke Powers Catholic High School, churches, car dealerships, restaurants, law, accounting and insurance offices and hotels.

One of the reasons CEO charges less than Consumers Energy and other major utility providers in the state is because it has lower overhead costs, Maher said. Rates vary but are based on actual costs.

Trustees Barb Vert and Belenda Parker voted against the switch.

Vert said she would like more time to study the proposal but her motion to postpone, seconded by Parker, was defeated.

Looking to the future, Vert asked Maher what happens to the rate if overhead costs increase as his company grows.

Maher said in his eight years of operation’s,

CEO’s rates have never been higher than Consumers Energy’s rates.

In casting her no vote, Parker said she would like to study what other suppliers offer before committing to a one-year contract with CEO. She raised the issue of a $500 termination fee if the township board decides it is unhappy with the service before the 12-month contract expires.

Maher agreed to pay the termination fee should the township board decide to end the contract early.

“You can leave us any day you feel you have a better option,’’ he said.

Most of the 7000 contracts CEO signed last year were one-year contracts but longer contracts are offered, Maher said.

Gerald Roberts, a township resident, vouched for Integrys. He said he signed up as a residential customer with Integrys because it had the lowest rate of 18 companies he checked. He decided to take a chance on Integrys which paid off with a $50 savings on his first bill, he said, recommending that other residents look into alternative provider service.

“People go back and check your bills because there could be money in your pocket you are paying to Consumers that you don’t really have to,’’ he said.

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