Starting July 1, residential consumers of electricity in Michigan will see a spike in their bills, thanks to legislative action from 2014. The approx. 8% increase in electrical cost could mean hard times ahead for medical marijuana patients who grow their own medicine at home, but a program offered by big power companies could offset this increase- possibly lowering electric bills to below pre-legislation levels.
"It was easy and they didn't even have to come into the house to do it," Michigan medical marijuana patient and radio personality Steve Greene told listeners during the July 2 broadcast of The Planet Green Trees Radio Show(PGT).
The solution: have "a 'split meter' installed that registers peak and off-peak electricity," Greene said, which allows for two different electric rates to be charged to the same address. Power companies offer a very reasonable rate on electricity during traditional off-peak hours, when many cannabis cultivators have their garden lights turned on.
"If you're growing (cannabis) as a patient or a caregiver, most of the cost of that production is eaten up in the cost of electricity," he explained to PGT listeners. "This trick will reduce your bill by 66%!"
It's the difference between paying more than 12 cents per kilowatt hour and paying about 4 cents for the same amount of energy. The lower, off-peak electric rate extends for the majority of the day, 16 hours, from 7pm - 11 am.
"Many growers, especially residential growers, have timed their light cycle to turn on in the evening hours to minimize the amount of money they spend on air conditioning, so that's a habit that a lot of growers are already in," co-host Rick Thompson explained to the listeners.
"If they can just change their meter, without changing anything about their cultivation cycle, and save up to 66% on the power used to power that grow room... that's an amazing revelation."
The new meter costs $19 per month; both the standard and 'smart meters' installed on every home also come at a cost, which varies from $6-$12 per month, and is already a part of a residential customer's electric bill. The extra $10 per month for the 'split meter' will "be drastically offset by the savings from the new meter," Greene said.
The new 8% fee was created by Michigan's House and Senate, Greene told PGT host Michael Komorn. Public Act 169, passed in June of 2014, became active in June of this year and will impact bills beginning July 1, Greene reported.
He explained that the legislature shifted the burden of administering electric utilities from business customers to residential users. "The line guys, the equipment costs, all that stuff, the cost of putting up lines and maintaining them has been pushed back off businesses and put onto residences." This change applies regardless of which utility provider you use or where in Michigan you reside, Greene added, because the 8% fee is mandated by the sate agency charged with oversight of utility companies, the Michigan Public Service Commission.
"It's bad law," Greene said. "If you ask my opinion, it's bad law."
Although this new charge will certainly place a hardship on low-income families and those on fixed incomes, like veterans and retirees, for marijuana growers the extra expense will be magnified.
Greene, a broadcaster with an impressive resume who is currently hosting the Internet-based radio program The Full Melt Show, learned about this metering option firsthand when a utility company incorrectly wired a pole near his residence and caused significant damage to a series of homes.
"I did not know about this until a couple of days ago," he admitted.
"I called them on a Wednesday and said I want to switch to this new metering program, and before eight o'clock in the morning DTE was there pounding on my door, ready to install that meter."
When asked if the power company needed to access the inside of the home, Greene said, "Not at all. This is something they are going to do outside your house. All they're going to do is come to your door, knock and say 'hey, we're ready to change out the meter.'
"They're going to turn the power off momentarily to switch the meter out, obviously."
Greene said there's no way to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates without changing that meter.
"Right now, your meter only records the amount of kilowatt hours you use, it does not record what time you use them." The 'split meter' tells the electric company when the energy is used, allowing residential customers to take advantage of the lower rate.
"If you've only got the (standard) meter out there recording it, the power company has no way to split it up differently. You've got to get a 'split meter'."
Naturally, not all companies charge the same rates and not every company may have split meters available. Call your local service provider for details.
Listen to the full airing of the Planet Green Trees Radio Show at:
Steve Greene's Full Melt Show broadcasts Monday through Friday from 7pm - 8pm EST. Live broadcasts and replays of past episodes can be found at:
Source: The Compassion Chronicles